Retainers are a critical part of orthodontic care, as they help to preserve your beautiful smile, but they can also be a breeding ground for bacteria and harmful microbes if not cleaned correctly. Keeping your retainer clean is just as important as brushing your teeth twice a day and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings.
In this ultimate guide, we will cover everything you need to know about cleaning your retainer, including the dos and don’ts, simple steps to keeping your retainer fresh, home remedies, and effective cleaning techniques. We also provide a few tips on maintaining your retainer long-term.
II. The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Retainer
Before we dive into the specifics of cleaning your retainer, it is essential to understand the dos and don’ts of the process.
When it comes to making sure your retainer is clean and hygienic, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Brush your retainer every time you brush your teeth.
- Use cool or lukewarm water, never hot water because it can warp the plastic of the retainer.
- Soak your retainer in a solution once a week, more often if it smells or looks dirty.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or retainer brush to scrub your retainer gently, but thoroughly.
- Keep your retainer in a protective case when it’s not in your mouth.
- Use hot water because it is likely to deform or alter the plastic.
- Use toothpaste or mouthwash to clean your retainer because they can be too abrasive and may damage the plastic.
- Put your retainer in the dishwasher because the heat can warp the retainer, and the detergents can be harmful.
- Use sharp objects to scrape the build-up from the retainer because they can scratch the plastic making it easier for microbes to gather.
III. 7 Simple Steps to Keeping Your Retainer Fresh and Clean
Here are the steps to follow to ensure you have a clean retainer:
- Brush your retainer with a soft-bristled toothbrush or retainer brush using cool or lukewarm water. Make sure you gently scrub every part of the retainer.
- Rinse your retainer thoroughly using cool or lukewarm water to remove any residual build-up or debris.
- Fill a cup or bowl with cool or lukewarm water, add a tablet of retainer cleaner or a teaspoon of white vinegar to create a solution for soaking your retainer for 15-20 minutes.
- Use your fingers to scrub the inside and outside of the retainer gently, ensuring that all the build-up is removed, and the solution cleans every part of the retainer.
- Rinse the retainer thoroughly again using cool or lukewarm water.
- Dry your retainer with a clean towel, making sure that it is entirely dry before storing it in its protective case
- Store your retainer in a dry, clean case when it’s not in your mouth to prevent scratches and exposure to harmful bacteria.
It is ideal to clean your retainer every day, more so after eating or drinking. This helps protect your teeth from harmful bacteria and microbes and will keep your retainer smelling and looking fresh.
IV. The Ultimate Guide to Retainer Care
Keeping your retainer clean is an essential part of maintaining optimal hygiene. However, there’s more to taking care of your retainer than just cleaning it. Here are a few tips to help you take better care of your retainer:
- Never wrap your retainer in a tissue because it can be easily misplaced or thrown away.
- Always pack your retainer on your person, not in luggage or bags, as it’s more likely to get lost in transit.
- Protect your retainer from extreme heat or cold to avoid damaging the plastic.
- Remind yourself to clean your retainer regularly as part of your daily routine.
- Always wear your retainer when instructed by your doctor to keep your teeth aligned; otherwise, the treatment will be ineffective.
V. 5 Home Remedies You Can Use to Clean Your Retainer
If you prefer using natural or homemade remedies on your retainer, then here are a few you can try:
- Baking Soda: Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a little water to create a paste. Use the paste to scrub your retainer gently.
- Lemon Juice: Soak your retainer in a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, then rinse it with cool water.
- Vinegar: Mix one part white vinegar with three parts water, then soak your retainer in the solution for 15-20 minutes.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Create a solution with equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and cool or lukewarm water then soak the retainer for 20 minutes.
- Mouthwash: Soak your retainer in a tablespoon of mouthwash mixed with a cup of cool water for 10-15 minutes.
It’s worth noting that despite their effectiveness, homemade remedies are not a substitute for regular cleaning with retainer cleansers. These remedies are ideal for those who may not have access to conventional cleaning products or as an alternative in case of an emergency.
VI. Cleaning Your Retainer: What Your Orthodontist Didn’t Tell You
Many people have misconceptions about how they should clean their retainers. Here are some of the most common misunderstandings:
- Misconception: Putting your retainer in the dishwasher is an effective way to clean it.
- Truth: The heat in the dishwasher can warp the retainer, and the detergents can be harmful to the plastic, which can ruin the device and cause an unpleasant taste.
- Misconception: Using toothpaste to clean your retainer is the best option.
- Truth: Toothpaste can be too abrasive for plastic and might cause scratches, making it easier for bacteria to grow and accumulate.
- Misconception: Using hot water to rinse your retainer is harmless.
- Truth: Hot water can alter or deform the retainer, leading to a misshaped appliance that doesn’t fit well in your mouth.
Effective cleaning techniques for maintaining optimal hygiene:
These are some of the most effective approaches to cleaning your retainer and keeping it fresh and clean:
- Use a designated toothbrush or retainer brush to clean your appliance.
- Ensure that your retainer is entirely dry before storage.
- Soak with a cleanser, a vinegar solution, or a mixture of both.
- Use cool or lukewarm water, not hot water, to rinse your device.
- Store your device in a hygienic environment, preferably in its protective case.
VII. Hygiene Habits to Keep Your Retainer Looking and Feeling New
In addition to cleaning your retainer regularly, there are a few other things you can do to ensure it remains looking and feeling new:
- Store your retainer in a dry, clean box when it’s not in your mouth to prevent scratches and exposure to harmful bacteria.
- Replace your retainer case every 3-6 months to prevent bacterial build-up.
- Invest in a spare retainer, so you always have a backup in case something goes wrong with your primary device.
- Never chew gum or sticky foods while wearing your retainer because it can damage the retainer and loosen it from your teeth.
VIII. 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Your Retainer
Despite good intentions, people often make mistakes when cleaning their retainers that can be detrimental to the hygiene of the appliance. Here are three mistakes to avoid:
- Cleaning your retainer with toothpaste and mouthwash, which are too abrasive for the plastic.
- Using hot water, which can deform the retainer or alter its shape, causing an improper fit.
- Picking or scraping at the retainer with sharp objects, which will scratch the surface of the plastic and lead to bacterial accumulation.
To ensure optimal hygiene of your retainer, use a designated toothbrush to clean it, soak it in a solution, and keep it in a hygienic container when not in use.
Keeping your retainer clean is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and beautiful smile. Regular cleaning, following the dos and don’ts, and incorporating hygiene habits into your routine will ensure that your retainer is always fresh and clean. As you can see, there are numerous ways to clean your retainer, but the key is to find the one that works best for your personal preferences and circumstances.
Finally, don’t forget to check with your orthodontist or dentist to confirm the best cleaning practices and get advice on how to care for your retainer long-term.