How to Clean Retainers

Now that you have graduated from braces or clear aligners to a retainer, keeping the retainer clean is an essential part of the overall health of your mouth.

How Often Should I Clean My Retainer?

Just like your teeth, your retainer should be cleaned every morning and before going to bed at night. It’s easy to remember when you add retainer cleaning to your teeth-brushing routine. 


Signs You Need to Clean Your Retainer

If you haven’t worked cleaning your retainer into your teeth-brushing routine, here are several signs that your retainer needs some cleaning love. One of the most obvious signs is the smell. If your retainer smells like bad breath, it’s time to clean it. Your retainer may also show any or all these signs:

  • Your retainer looks cloudy
  • There’s a film on your retainer
  • There are white spots on your retainer
  • The retainer is cracking or breaking – it’s time for a new one!

White spots on your retainer could indicate that cavity-causing plaque and mineral buildup (tartar) are also present on your teeth. If you have a build-up of white spots on your retainer and haven’t had your teeth cleaned in the past 6 months, it’s time to give your dentist’s office a call! Plaque and tartar can easily build up on the inside of your retainer because of all the small nooks and crannies. It can get even more difficult over time to clean the retainer as more plaque and tartar builds up. More importantly, by neglecting retainer cleaning you’re exposing your teeth to (avoidable) harmful bacteria, plaque, and tartar. 

How to Clean Plastic Retainers

There are several simple methods you can use to clean your retainer, most of which use items you’re likely to have around the house. 

Water (for on-the-go cleaning)

Water won’t give your retainer a full bacteria-clearing clean, but it will rinse the saliva away and reduce odor-causing bacteria. Don’t let saliva dry on your retainer, especially when you first wake up in the morning, because when saliva dries, it leaves a thin layer of minerals that gets harder and harder to remove over time so as soon as you remove your retainers, rinse them with cool water. You can also swish water around in your mouth while wearing your retainer, or drink water, or even rinse the retainer under running water whenever you’re not able to properly clean it. 

How to Clean Retainers with Baking Soda

Baking soda is a fantastic all-purpose cleaner. It efficiently kills bacteria and helps brighten your retainer if it has started to yellow. Baking soda also helps maintain a healthy pH balance. To clean your retainer with baking soda, mix equal parts water and baking soda to make a paste. Then, gently brush the retainer with the mixture using a soft-bristled brush and rinse thoroughly with water.

How to Clean Retainers with Vinegar

Vinegar is another excellent multi-tasker. It can help remove residue (like plaque and tartar) and bad odors. Mix equal parts vinegar and warm water in a small dish or cup and place your retainer in the solution and let it sit for 20 minutes. If there is a lot of buildup on the device, you may want to scrub gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush after removing it from the solution, then put it back in for a second 20 minutes for a thorough clean. Be sure to rinse it with water afterward. 

Retainer Cleaning Solution

If you don’t have time to test out homemade solutions like vinegar and baking soda, a great option is purchasing a retainer cleaning solution. If you choose this method, it’s essential to follow all packaging instructions for the solution. Some require you to soak the retainer overnight, while others even call for a sonic cleaning device. Consult your orthodontist at Walton and Maready Orthodontics to determine which cleaning solution best suits your needs.

How NOT to Clean Your Retainer

It’s important to know how to clean your retainer correctly to extend its longevity. Household cleaners can seriously damage your device. You should also avoid using hard-bristled toothbrushes for cleaning, as they can scratch your retainer’s surface. Never use boiling water to clean your retainer or put your retainer in the dishwasher. High temperatures can warp the plastic.  

Can You Clean a Retainer with Toothpaste?

Using toothpaste may seem like a logical idea, but it can damage your retainer. Toothpaste is too abrasive for retainers and will make the surface of the retainer dull over time. Whitening toothpaste is extra abrasive and can scratch your retainer- just like a hard-bristled toothbrush. Remember to avoid using anything abrasive on your device. 

Can You Clean a Retainer with Mouthwash?

Mouthwash isn’t the best option for retainer cleaning, but it’s good in a pinch if you don’t have other options. If you must use mouthwash, go for an alcohol-free formula. Alcohol can dry out your retainer. If you need to use mouthwash to clean your retainer, pour some into a small dish and let your retainer soak for two to three minutes, then brush gently and rinse thoroughly. Be sure that you don’t do this often, or it will likely damage your retainer.

Contact Walton & Maready Orthodontics for a free consultation in Raleigh, North Carolina, today if you’re ready to explore your orthodontic treatment options. Get the smile of your dreams with experienced, professionally trained orthodontists. Your teeth and your healthy smile will thank you!

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