It's a momentous occasion – you've survived months or years of wearing braces and have received your retainer from your orthodontist. Your next two steps are as follows: Wear it. Preserve it. However, how? We have some tips for keeping your retainer clean.
How can I keep my retainer clean?
Maintaining a clean and fresh retainer is an important part of your oral hygiene routine. Here are some tips and tricks for extending the life of your retainer and keeping it squeaky clean during daily wear.
1: Clean your retainer regularly.
We know it’s not news to you that these retainers are on your teeth, so it’s imperative to ensure they stay clean so they work effectively and so your oral health isn't impacted by a dirty retainer.
Following each meal, clean removable retainers with lukewarm water. To achieve a more thorough clean, combine the water with mild dish soap. Avoid using toothpaste to clean your retainer, as its abrasive properties may scratch the surface, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to hide.
Daily flossing is recommended for fixed or bonded retainers. With a 6-inch piece of floss, bring it up and down between the teeth, all the way to the gum line (and below the gum line if possible). Then, slide the floss sideways to clean the next area. Rep with each tooth connected to your permanent retainer.
2: Heat is not your (retainer’s) friend.
While you may enjoy a hot summer day at the beach or a steaming cup of tea on a chilly winter day, your retainer will not. Along with debris becoming lodged in your retainer in these instances, leaving it out in the heat may render it ineffective.
While your retainer is a marvel of modern engineering, it is still a piece of plastic that will warp if left on the dashboard of your car on a hot July day (oops) or in your mouth while sipping that hot beverage. Because your retainer is custom-made to fit your mouth perfectly, any warping will cause it to become misshapen and ineffective at holding your teeth in place. Therefore, always handle with caution – and clean only with warm, never hot, water.
3: No harsh chemicals needed.
You can forgo harsh cleansers and chemicals when cleaning your retainer and simply clean it using the dish soap/water combination mentioned above.
If you are worried about bacteria such as Streptococcus, which causes strep throat, chemical cleaning tablets can be used to kill these. Otherwise, your routine soap and water should suffice.
4. Soak only as long as required.
If you do use cleaning tablets, you may wish to set an alarm on your phone while soaking your retainer (ask your orthodontist how long you should soak your specific retainer brand, or check the packaging on the tablets).
Additionally, it can be soaked in mouthwash to keep it smelling fresh - simply combine an equal amount of mouthwash with lukewarm water. Additionally, only occasionally soak your retainer in mouthwash if the mouthwash contains alcohol.
5. Store your retainer in its case
Removable retainers have a number of disadvantages. You can take them out to eat, which simplifies eating, but if you are prone to being absent-minded, you risk losing your retainer or putting it in danger of becoming dirty or damaged.
Your retainer comes with a case to prevent all that. Use the case diligently to avoid mishaps.
6. Replace as needed.
Retainers, like anything else, have a useful life. They may become loose over time and no longer fit as snugly as they once did, or calcium may build up and begin to affect how the retainer fits, despite your best efforts to keep them clean.
When these things happen, it’s time to get a new retainer. At myORTHODONTIST, we can create an impression of your teeth and have a brand new retainer made for you.
7. Remember to keep a spare retainer on hand.
Accidents do occur. Retainers become lost, damaged, or simply wear out in the scenarios described above. Because obtaining a new retainer may take time, you'll want to keep a spare one on hand to prevent your teeth from shifting in the interim (especially a danger in the first few months after your braces are removed).