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How to care for your retainer?

February 20, 2024
How to care for your retainer?

So your child’s braces are coming off and it is time to enjoy their brilliant new smile, but this isn’t the end of the orthodontic journey! To help ensure their gorgeous smile stays straight for years to come, your orthodontist will recommend that they wear a retainer to encourage their teeth and jaws to maintain their new position. While they may be able to gradually reduce how often they need to wear it over time, helping them learn to properly care for their retainer will ensure they are able to wear it at regular intervals for years to come.

What happens if you don’t clean your retainer? 

You may be wondering, why should I clean my retainer? As a retainer sits within the mouth and is often put back in after eating and overnight, the same food and plaque that builds up on your teeth will also build up on your retainer. That’s why it is essential that retainers are cleaned regularly to keep them hygienic. 

5 tips to clean your removable retainer

A removable retainer is like a clear mouthguard you (or your child) will wear after having braces. It helps keep the teeth in place and prevents them from moving.

Here are five tips you can follow to keep your retainer squeaky clean:

  1. Give your teeth a good clean or at least a thorough rinse after eating and prior to placing the retainer back into your mouth.
  2. Give your retainer a proper clean at least once a day. It might seem like the obvious choice, but avoid cleaning the retainer with toothpaste as this may be too abrasive. Use a tiny bit of hand soap on a brush or soak your retainer in a little bit of white vinegar and cold water.
  3. Avoid hot water or high temperatures as this may warp the plastic materials
  4. Soak the retainer in an anti-bacterial denture solution weekly can help maintain its freshness and kill bacteria.
  5. If other options are not available, you can use mouthwash to clean your retainer as it is designed to combat plaque, bacteria, and other deposits in the mouth.
retainer cleaner

How to clean a Hawley retainer?

A Hawley retainer is a removable acrylic plate with a wire bar that fits to the top and bottom of your mouth. Here’s a quick list of what you need to do to clean your Hawley retainer well:

  • Clean your Hawley retainer each day, morning and night – ideally around the time you brush your teeth.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and gently scrub the retainer under running warm water. You can also use a bit of hand soap or detergent to clean your retainer, but don’t use toothpaste.
  • If you’re out at work or school, rinse your mouth out to remove any remaining food in your mouth before popping the retainer back in.

How to clean a permanent retainer

A permanent fixed retainer (or a bonded retainer) is a metal wire that’s glued to the back of your top or bottom teeth (or both). This type of retainer is a little trickier to clean as you can’t take it out to wash it, but rather should be cleaned like a braces wire. With thorough toothbrushing, interdental brushes and floss picks or floss threaders, you can place the latter two under the bonded wire retainer to ensure they stay clean and free of any food or plaque.

How to clean your retainer after it has been thrown in the trash

We get asked this question more often than you think. Whether you’ve accidentally wrapped it in a napkin and thrown it in the bin, or your dog has gotten a hold of it, the last thing you should do is put it in boiling water. Hot temperatures will warp the shape of the retainer and you won’t be able to use it anymore. Instead you should use rinse it under cold water, then brush it with mild dishwashing soap and lukewarm water.

how to clean retainers

Can you use denture cleaner on clear retainers?

Some manufacturers offer retainer cleaners. For people who do not have the time or desire to make their own solution, these products are an affordable option. However, over time, denture cleaners can turn your retainer yellow, so you should ask your orthodontist which one is right for you. If you are cleaning your retainer with a denture cleaner, you should rinse it and gently scrub it with a soft toothbrush thoroughly before and after soaking.

Where to keep your retainer?

When your child is not wearing their retainer, it should be kept in its plastic case to prevent it from breaking or becoming lost. Rinse the retainer before placing it in its case to help reduce the number of bacteria being transferred back into the mouth.
The retainer should never be put it in a pocket, bag or wrapped in a napkin or tissue when eating, as they’re far more likely to be lost, broken or thrown away.
And you don’t want to be heading into the orthodontist every other week to purchase a new retainer!

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