How To Clean Retainers

Excerpt: Retainers (both removable and fixed) need to be cleaned on a regular basis as use overtime...
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Retainers (both removable and fixed) need to be cleaned on a regular basis as use over time can cause them to accumulate bacteria and food particles. Not cleaning them can affect your oral health as well as potentially give you bad breath (halitosis).

How To Clean Retainers

There are a few types of retainers that are available to clients. These involve fixed, removable, clear, and Hawley retainers. Each one of these retainers will require a different strategy to clean them. You will want to thoroughly clean your retainer at least once a day. The optimal time to do this would be at the end of the day before you go to bed. This will minimize the amount of time food particles and bacteria are stuck in the retainer.

Fixed Retainers

Fixed retainers are cemented to your teeth, they are not removable but they still need attention on top of your oral care routine.

 

  1. Brush your teeth regularly.
  2. Use a long piece of floss with a threader on the end of it, or you can also use super foss.
  3. Pass the floss through the retainer and your teeth to remove any debris.
  4. Do this for every tooth.
  5. Rinse with mouthwash (optional).

Clear Plastic Retainers

Clear aligners and other products similar to Invisalign are designed to be removed for up to two hours a day. They are designed this way so they are easier to clean and eat with, however, you will want to keep them in your mouth as much as possible and only remove them for a minimal amount of time.


  1. Before every meal, remove your retainer.
  2. After each meal, brush your teeth.
  3. Clean your retainer gently with mild dish soap and a soft bristled brush.
  4. Wash all the soap off.
  5. Re-insert the retainer/aligner tray immediately back into your mouth afterward.

Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are made of an acrylic tray with metal wiring that attaches to your teeth, these retainers are most likely what you think of when you imagine a traditional retainer.


  1. Remove the retainer before your meal.
  2. Brush it with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  3. Use a denture cleaner, baking soda, or retainer cleaner.
  4. Keep it moist while it is out of your mouth (in a glass of water, or wrapped in a damp paper towel, etc.).
  5. Soak the retainer in denture cleaner overnight for a deep clean.

Signs You Need To Clean Your Retainer Or Aligner

As mentioned before, you should be cleaning your appliance every day, at least once a day. If you have a habit of forgetting to clean your appliance, you should be on the lookout for these signs. 

  • Bad smell from a retainer. 
  • Unexplained bad taste in your mouth.
  • The retainer has a cloudy appearance.
  • It’s been a day or two since you’ve cleaned it.
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Best Retainer Cleaning Products And DIY Solutions

You don’t necessarily need to buy a fancy cleaner for your retainer if you are not able to. There are common household ingredients you can use to clean your appliances. However, check with your dentist first just to make sure they won’t damage it in any way. You will want to remember to use mild, non-abrasive cleaning solutions for this as they may damage the appliance if it is too harsh.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a well-used cooking ingredient and can be found in many households. To use it as a cleaning agent:

 

  1. Mix a small amount of baking soda with water until paste forms.
  2. Apply the paste to the toothbrush.
  3. Gently brush the appliance.
  4. Rinse the appliance off.

Denture Cleaner

Denture cleaner is specifically designed to clean these products, you can ask your dentist for any specific brand recommendations and where would be the best place to purchase them.

 

  1. Get a container big enough to fit the appliance (glass, Tupperware, etc.).
  2. Put the appliance in the retainer.
  3. Fill the container with enough denture cleaner to submerge the appliance.
  4. Gently brush the retainer with a soft-bristled brush.
  5. Rinse the appliance thoroughly and insert it back into your mouth.

Vinegar

Vinegar is another common household product that can be used to disinfect the appliance. Just remember to dilute the vinegar first before using it.

 

  1. Grab a suitable container and put the appliance in it.
  2. Fill a container halfway with vinegar.
  3. Fill the rest of the container with water to dilute it.
  4. Scrub it gently with a soft-bristled brush

Before using any of the solutions mentioned above, please talk with your dentist first to make sure it is compatible with your appliance.

Dental Appliance Cleaning Myths

If you have an appliance, or you need to get one, you might have heard about these appliance cleaning myths. It’s good to do your own research, but you will want to ask your dentist to make sure the things you found are evidence-based and true.

You Only Need Water To Clean Your Appliance

Water does clean it to an extent, but to get rid of bacteria you will want to use an actual cleaning solution formulated to do this, water may not be effective at deep cleaning the appliance. However, if you are stuck in a situation where you don’t have any other way to clean your appliance, then using only water is better than using nothing.

You Don’t Need Daily Cleaning

You should seriously consider cleaning your appliance once a day. Even if you don’t notice, the lack of cleaning may give you bad breath. It will also promote tooth decay by allowing bacteria and food debris to build up. 

Retainer Cleaning Products Are Damaging

This is not true, ask your dentist for a product they endorse and your appliance should be ok if you follow the instructions. These products are specifically formulated to keep your appliance as clean as possible without damaging it.

Frequently Asked Questions

It will depend on your specific situation as well as your insurance coverage.

They may be partially covered, or completely covered. Please check with your provider first.

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