Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

With the new year glow starting to fade and the hope of spring around the corner, we’ve been thinking about new beginnings. At Whitewater Orthodontics, we love seeing our patients start a new beginning in their orthodontic care. From getting braces for the first time to having them removed, there is always something new to learn and celebrate. 

While Dr. Leavitt loves to see his patients excited about their straight teeth when the braces come off, he has a few words of advice too. Especially when it comes to wearing your retainer. The journey isn’t over when the braces are gone, and now it’s all about maintaining that smile with proper care for your retainer. 

Why Is It Important to Keep a Retainer Clean?

Remembering to wear a retainer is one thing, and remembering to clean it is another. Both habits are easy to pick up with a little practice, and our team is ready to show you how. To begin with, in order to follow through on your commitment, it’s important to understand why a retainer needs regular cleaning. 

Keeping a retainer clean is important for a few reasons. First, practically, a clean retainer will be usable for many, many years to come. Retainers that are chronically covered in buildup and gunk tend to need to be replaced more frequently, costing you time and money. Most importantly, putting bacteria and plaque in and out of your mouth over and over is a recipe for disaster, sometimes causing oral health problems like tooth decay or even infection. 

Clearly, you don’t want to wear a dirty retainer, so let’s spend a little time learning just how easy they are to care for. The type of retainer you have will change the way you approach cleaning!

Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is a convenient retainer device that lives permanently on your teeth. It consists of a metal wire cemented onto the inside of your teeth, holding the shape of your new bite. It is invisible to others and is very low maintenance to care for. 

The best way to clean your fixed retainer is during your regularly brush your teeth in the morning and evening. We recommend angling your toothbrush so that it can go over and under the fixed retainer, making sure to get all the nooks and crannies. Next, use a threader to get your floss underneath your wire, then floss all your teeth as normal. Clean teeth and good oral hygiene overall are the best ways to care for your fixed retainer.

4 Do’s and Don’ts for Maintaining Your Retainer

When cleaning removable retainers, the rules are a little different but still straightforward. The two most common retainers are the Essix, and the Hawley retainers. Essix retainers are clear plastic trays that are perfectly formed to fit over your teeth and are mostly invisible. Hawley retainers are made out of acrylic that fits into the roof or bottom of your mouth with metal wires that fit over your teeth. Here are our tips for cleaning these removable retainers:

Do Brush Daily

The easiest time to clean your retainer is when you’ve just removed it in the morning. Brushing it right away means that it will be clean as you either store it or put it back in, depending on your orthodontist’s recommendations. It also prevents saliva, plaque, and bacteria from drying onto the retainer and making it more difficult to clean later. We recommend cleaning your retainer at least once a day. 

Don’t Use Hot Water

When you are cleaning your retainer, be sure to not use hot water. Lukewarm water should suffice to help get your toothbrush clean, and hot water can distort the material of your retainer. When you first take your retainer out, we recommend a good rise with lukewarm water, and then it’s ready to be scrubbed clean. 

Do Set Aside a Toothbrush  

Set aside a toothbrush specifically for your retainer. This is a good idea because it will ensure that you only get the cleaning solutions that you want on your retainer. Once you’ve finished rinsing your retainer you can grab this toothbrush and your cleaning solution of choice.

Don’t Use Toothpaste

When choosing how to clean your retainer, we don’t ever recommend toothpaste. Due to its abrasive properties, it can cause scratches on your retainer that can weaken it and make it more susceptible to bacteria growth. Instead, choose something like alcohol-free mouthwash or gentle hand soap. We love these options because they have bacteria-killing power but are easy on the retainer. 

All you have to do is get a little of your cleaning solution on your reserved toothbrush and scrub your retainer well. Make sure to really focus on any deeper grooves, and to do the inside and outside. Rinse very well again with lukewarm water and your retainer should be sparkling clean and ready for your next wear!

Dr. Leavitt Whitewater Orthodontic Studios in Yelm and Tacoma, WA

Find All the Support You Need at Whitewater Orthodontics

At the end of the day, our goal at Whitewater Orthodontics is to see you enjoy your beautifully aligned teeth and to help you keep them that way. If you have any challenges with your retainer, need help learning new care habits, or have lost or broken your retainer, we are just a phone call away! Schedule an appointment at one of our offices in ParklandYelm, or Lacey, and we’ll be happy to get you in the door soon.

Tacoma Office

Yelm Office