Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

So, what’s the big deal about retainers? After all the effort of wearing braces, once they come off it can be easy to think, “Finally! I don’t have to worry about anything for my teeth anymore.” But hold on just a minute! 

At Sohn Orthodontics, we want you to enjoy your straight smile and keep it that way over the years. The best way of doing that is by regularly wearing your retainer as instructed by Dr. Sohn. And not only wear them, but you also have to keep them clean! Don’t worry, though, it’s simple to learn how and will soon become second nature. 

Why is Retainer Cleanliness so Important?

So, why is keeping your retainer clean so important exactly? First of all, cleaning a retainer extends its life, meaning you won’t always be coming back into the office needing a new one. You won’t have to worry about a build-up of plaque, and you won’t have to taste a gross, dirty retainer going in your mouth. Huge perks all around!

More importantly, cleaning a retainer means keeping bacteria out of your mouth. Of course, bacteria naturally occur there, but that’s why you brush, floss, and use mouthwash to scrub it away and keep it from growing into plaque and tartar. The same is true for your retainer, and regular cleaning can help you avoid reintroducing those nasty germs back into your mouth.

Tips to Keep Your Retainer Clean

The truth is that cleaning your retainer is really easy. In basically just two steps, you can keep your teeth and your orthodontist happy! Check out our tips below on how to clean your retainer every day, specifically for removable retainers like Essix and Hawley retainers. We’ll get into fixed retainers further below!

  1. Brush Daily

It’s no secret that our teeth need to be brushed every day, and the same is true for your retainer. Typically one brush will do, but it’s always a good idea to rinse it after eating or anytime it comes out of your mouth, even just briefly. By brushing your retainer every day you will prevent most bacteria and plaque from growing on it, plus you have the added benefit of not putting stale, dry saliva back into your mouth!

  1. Don’t Use Hot Water

The first thing you’ll do when you take out your retainer every day is to give it a good rinse. But don’t use hot water because the heat can warp the plastic or acrylic of your retainer! Instead, opt to always use lukewarm water when rising off your retainer.

  1. Use a Reserved Toothbrush and Avoid Toothpaste

After the initial rinse, it’s time for you to scrub your retainer. You don’t have to do anything fancy here, just grab a normal, soft-bristled toothbrush. Dr. Sohn recommends keeping a toothbrush aside just for your retainer, in order to avoid accidentally getting any toothpaste on your retainer. You want to always avoid toothpaste because of the abrasive properties in them that can damage your retainer.

4. Use a Gentle Cleanser

Instead of using toothpaste, grab an alcohol-free mouthwash or Dawn dishwashing soap. The goal is to use something that is not harsh that will damage the retainer. Grab your preferred solution and use it to scrub all over the retainer, on both sides, taking extra care where there are deeper hard-to-reach grooves. Then rinse well and your retainer should be clean and ready to store!

5. Soak in Cleaning Solution as Needed

Most people need a little extra TLC for their retainers, even when they clean them diligently. If you want yours to be a little extra fresh, we recommend soaking it in a retainer specific cleaning solution that is readily available on the market. Test them put until you find one you like. After soaking for the allotted time, just give your retainer another quick scrub with the toothbrush to remove debris, and your retainer should be super fresh! 

Fixed Retainers

Depending on the case, Dr. Sohn will sometimes recommend fixed retainers for her patients. This means placing a metal wire onto the back of your teeth using permanent cement to help it stay indefinitely. This kind of retainer is very convenient because you never have to remember to take it in or out, and others can’t even see it! 

When cleaning a fixed retainer, you will go about your normal teeth-brushing rituals, but with a little extra care. Angle your brush to scrub up and down the retainer, really ensuring that you are getting out any trapped food particles. And don’t forget to floss! It’s easy to use a threader to bring the floss underneath the retainer and then floss as usual. 

We are Your Orthodontic Team!

Sohn Orthodontics is the place you can go to with all of your questions and retainer challenges. We’ve seen it all and are ready to help our patients have the best possible success with their retainers now and in the future. We can’t wait for you to have a lifetime of beautiful smiles. Give us a call at our Bridgeville office if you need support. And if you haven’t had orthodontic treatment but are curious, you can always schedule a free consultation! We hope to connect with you soon.