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So you’ve done your time wearing braces and your teeth have never looked straighter. Now it’s time to ensure they stay that way by using a retainer. But what exactly is a retainer? And why is it important? We’ll look at the answers to these questions and deal with how to clean retainers so you’re informed and ready to keep those pearly whites looking their best.
A retainer is a dental device that sits inside your mouth to keep teeth in place and prevent any unwanted movement. Wearing a retainer is particularly important in the period after having a brace removed to keep your teeth in their straighter, new alignment and stop them from returning to their original position. In the beginning, it’s common for a dentist to request that a retainer be worn all day. Then, after a period of around three to six months, it becomes feasible to transition to only wearing a retainer overnight.
There are three different types of retainer, each with its own benefits. They are:
- Hawley retainers (removable)
- Clear plastic retainers (removable)
- Fixed/Lingual/Bonded retainer (not removable)
A major task of having a retainer is cleaning it. Luckily, it’s not complicated and once you have your process down it shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes each day. In this guide, we will focus on how to clean removable retainers.
Do You Have To Clean a Retainer?
Yes, you do. Or at least you should. No one is going to make you, but the same plaque, bacteria and tartar which build up on your teeth also build up on a retainer. In this way, not cleaning your retainer regularly will lead to large potential problem-causing build-ups.
How Often Should You Clean a Retainer?
It’s a good idea to clean your retainer on a daily basis. As previously mentioned, the same bacteria, plaque, and tartar that can build up on your teeth also build up on your retainer. By rinsing it every time you take it out of your mouth, it’s easier to stay on top of these build-ups and prevent them from appearing. In addition, you should aim to give your retainer a deeper clean every week, or two weeks at the most. There’s nothing wrong with being more regular with this cleaning if you really want to avoid experiencing any bad smells or unpleasant tastes.
While timetabled, once-a-week cleaning is a good idea on top of your daily rinse, don’t be afraid to deeper clean a retainer more often if it requires it. Always be sure to look out for these signs which suggest your retainer is in need of a clean. They include:
- A visible film
- A cloudy appearance
- A noticeable smell
- An unpleasant taste
- Breaks or cracks
- White spots
Below we’ll look at a quick and easy cleaning routine for daily use as well as a slightly more time-consuming deeper cleaning routine. Beyond that, you’ll find a selection of handy home hacks and versatile products which can be used to clean your retainer in a pinch. Read on to discover how to keep your retainer fresh and clean.
How To Clean Retainers – Daily Routine
After you remove the retainer from your mouth, try this suggested daily routine which will keep your retainer clean and smelling fresh. Use these recommended products and follow these quick and easy steps to achieve a comprehensive clean in a matter of seconds.
1. Rinse the retainer under warm (never boiling) water
2. Brush over the retainer with a retainer toothbrush (see below) after it has been dipped in alcohol-free mouthwash or alcohol-free hand soap.
3. While brushing, be sure to cover all areas of the retainer, including the top, bottom and wire frame (if present).
4. Rinse the retainer under water to clean off any remaining cleaner.
Nimbus Extra Soft Toothbrushes
While some people may be happy to use their teeth-cleaning toothbrushes to clean their retainer, we suggest keeping a separate one solely for the purpose of cleaning your retainer. Why? Well, it’s important to ensure the brush you use to clean your retainer is free of any toothpaste. Toothpaste contains abrasive particles which can scratch the retainer’s surface, leading to an increased amount of bacteria and plaque build-up. Try these Nimbus Toothbrushes as they are extra soft, tapered for better reach and come backed by more than 5,500 five-star ratings from happy Amazon users.
Colgate Total Alcohol-Free Mouthwash
Just like with the inside of your mouth, using mouthwash is a great way to get rid of bacteria and plaque and leave things smelling fresh at the same time. The only stipulation in your choice of mouthwash is that it should be free of alcohol. This Colgate Total Alcohol-Free Mouthwash is a reliable choice that provides long-term protection for your retainer while killing 99% of germs on contact. It also significantly reduces plaque and comes backed by over 4,000 five-star ratings from users who love what it can do.
Dial Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap
BEST HAND SOAP
If you would rather stay away from mouthwash when it comes to cleaning your retainer, you may prefer to use liquid hand soap instead. It can be used in a similar fashion to mouthwash by which you use it to scrub all over the retainer using your designated toothbrush. One thing to note is that it’s important to always thoroughly wash any hand soap from your retainer as it may irritate your stomach if it is not removed. This Dial Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap is a popular option that is free from alcohol, kills over 99.9% of bacteria and comes in a handy push-top bottle for easy distribution.
How To Clean Retainers – Weekly Cleaning Routine
While a daily rinse is sufficient for dealing with small build-ups and preventing odors and an unpleasant taste, a more comprehensive, deeper clean helps keep larger build-ups at bay. These cleanings are best done at least once every one to two weeks. In addition to a glass of warm water, you’re going to need either retainer or denture-cleaning tablets. Follow these steps to complete a deeper clean:
1. Fill a cup with warm (never boiling) water
2. Place one tablet of your denture/retainer cleaner into the cup
3. Place the retainer in the cup and allow it to sit for the brand-advised length of time
4. After the time has elapsed, use your designated toothbrush to clean the retainer
5. Rinse the retainer with water
6. Dispose of the cleaning liquid
M3 Naturals Retainer and Denture Cleaner
BEST RETAINER TABLETS
Retainer and denture cleaning tablets work in the same way. When placed in warm water, the tablets effervesce and produce a retainer/denture-cleaning solution which eliminates up to 99.9% of bacteria, quickly removes stains, build-ups and discoloration and also helps to stop odors. This M3 Naturals Retainer and Denture Cleaner is particularly popular with Amazon users, having received over 9,500 five-star ratings from users. All of the 120 mint-flavored tablets are also individually wrapped to make it easier to use them on a one-by-one basis.
Efferdent Denture Cleanser Tablets
BEST DENTURE TABLETS
Submerging your retainer in a glass filled with very warm (not boiling, otherwise it may cause distortion) water and an effervescing denture-cleaning tablet gives it an effective deep clean. These tablets kill 99.9% of bacteria, including the odor-causing kind, in addition to reducing plaque build-ups and leftover food particles. Try these versatile Efferdent Denture Cleanser Tablets which can be used for cleaning retainers, full-plate dentures, partials and other dental appliances. Furthermore, the trusted tablets have received over 9,500 five-star ratings from Amazon users.
Hacks and Alternative Cleaning Products
Below you’ll find a selection of alternative ways to clean your retainer as well as some hacks to keep it clean without actually having to clean it. In addition, we’ve included some products you can use to clean your retainer in a pinch that you might have lying about the house already.
iSonic F3900 Ultrasonic Denture/Aligner/Retainer Cleaner
If you don’t fancy doing the manual work yourself, it’s possible to let a purpose-made device do the hard work for you. This iSonic F3900 Ultrasonic Denture/Aligner/Retainer Cleaner uses sound waves to clean dentures, retainers and aligners. The sound waves penetrate all of the cavities and crevices to clean deep and remove stubborn build-ups. To complete a clean, simply place your retainer inside the tabletop device and push the power button to begin a five-minute cleaning treatment.
Essentia Bottled Water
While this guide on how to clean retainers is generally dealing with the mechanical cleaning process when a retainer is out of your mouth, it’s worth being aware that there are some things you can do while it’s in your mouth to keep it clean. Regularly drinking water can help reduce bacteria growth, keep the retainer moist and also help tooth decay-causing dry mouth. If you’re looking for pleasant-tasting water, the evidence shows that Amazon users love this Essentia Bottled Water. The ionized alkaline water is 99.9% pure and infused with electrolytes to create the water’s appealing flavor.
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
Baking soda is undoubtedly one of the most versatile products you can keep at home. In this case, you can use baking soda to disinfect the retainer and restore its original color if it has yellowed. Using baking soda to control bacteria growth has a number of benefits because it prevents potential mouth-harming pH imbalances. To clean the retainer with baking soda, create a 50:50 mix of water and soda and then apply it to the retainer. After scrubbing the retainer with your designated toothbrush, rinse it thoroughly to clear the paste off. This Arm & Hammer Baking Soda is a versatile, effective and affordable option that can be used for cleaning, baking, deodorizing and several other round-the-house jobs.
Lucy’s Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar
White vinegar possesses both disinfecting and odor-fighting properties, making it a great choice for cleaning a retainer. To clean your retainer using vinegar, make a bath for the retainer from water and vinegar in approximately half and half measures. Then submerge the retainer for around 20 minutes while scrubbing with a soft toothbrush is a film or noticeable mineral deposits are visible. Afterward, rinse it thoroughly with water and then repeat the process once over. Lucy’s Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar’s Amazon rating speaks for itself.