How to clean your retainer?

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You may wonder how to clean your retainer if you wear one. Because your retainer is in your mouth and against your teeth, bacteria, plaque, and tartar can quickly collect. Cleaning your retainer daily is just as vital as brushing your teeth.


Why wear retainers after braces?


It is important to wear retainers full-time after removing braces because teeth will return to their pre-brace state. Even after braces, your teeth can shift over time. Furthermore, retainers assist the muscles and tissues in your mouth in holding teeth in their new position. Some people must wear their retainers indefinitely at night to keep their teeth in place.


Do I have to clean my retainer?


Your retainer is inserted into your mouth and rests against your teeth. When you wear your retainer, it will continue to collect germs, plaque, and tartar from your mouth. As a result, it collects plaque and bacterial buildup as well. If you don't clean it frequently enough, it may even begin to smell or taste strange over time.


If you place your retainer back in your mouth without first thoroughly cleaning it, all of that is applied straight to your teeth and gums.


According to the American Association of Orthodontists,


“Retainers can host deadly germs such as Streptococcus, which can cause gum diseases like gingivitis”


Retainer cleaning depends on the type of retainer.


The first step in the hygiene of your retainer is determining your type. Retainers are classified into three types:

 How to clean your retainer? 

  • Hawley retainers: These are made of acrylic and custom-made to fit your mouth. They have a wire that helps in the retention of the retainer. Because this form of retainer is removable, it is simple to clean.
  • Transparent plastic retainers: Also known as clear aligners, these retainers fit over your teeth and are translucent and undetectable. They are removable but not as long-lasting as Hawley retainers.
  • Fixed or permanent retainers: These are connected to your lower front teeth. Orthodontists recommend these if your teeth are at high risk of shifting. These sorts of retainers are not removable.


How to clean your retainer?


Clear plastic retainers and Hawley


Hawley and clear plastic retainers are removable so you can clean them easily.


You can follow these instructions to clean your plastic retainer:


  • Clean your retainers as soon as you take them out of your mouth while it's still wet. This will make cleaning up any plaque buildup efficiently before it hardens.
  • After each meal, wash your retainer with lukewarm water. Moreover, brushing your teeth is also a good idea after each meal.
  • To get a deeper cleaning, use lukewarm water and mild dish soap (toothpaste are abrasive and can damage the surface of the retainer). Use a gentle toothbrush to scrub plaque and other debris away.


Fixed retainers


Because these retainers are attached to your teeth, you must floss them daily to keep them clean. This procedure may appear scary initially, but you'll soon get the hang of it. Here are the steps to cleaning your permanent retainer:


  • Using a floss threader, thread a 6-inch piece of floss between your two front lower teeth.
  • Hold one end of the floss between your fingertips and the threader.
  • Run the floss up and down between the teeth to the gum line once you've got it under the retainer wire. If possible, softly place the floss underneath the gum line.


If you're having trouble flossing, don't be afraid to seek assistance from your dentist or orthodontist. They can coach your technique and offer additional advice.


Removable retainers


Avoid the heat: High temperatures can deform and damage your retainer. Moreover, wash retainers in lukewarm water always.

 How to clean your retainer? 

  • Avoid using chemicals: You don't have to use harsh cleansers to achieve a spotless-clean retainer. Researchers discovered in a study on Essix retainers that utilizing chemical cleaning tablets did not lower the number of bacteria more than simple brushing.
  • Clear out your case: Keep your retainer case clean regularly. Scrub all its surfaces gently with warm, soapy water. Then rinse it and pat it dry. Clean it once a day before putting your retainer away.
  • Replace as per need: Retainers, like contact lenses or shoes, are vulnerable to daily wear and tear. Therefore, you need to replace your retainers at some point. If kept adequately, Hawley retainers can last 5 or 10 years. Plastic retainers may only last six months to a few years.


If you discover that your retainer is highly unclean, worn out, or no longer fits properly, contact your orthodontist.




It is just as crucial to clean your retainer as it is to brush your teeth. To maintain your retainer healthy, wash it once a day with warm water and dish soap. It's also a good idea to brush it after each meal. Because the advice on this page is generic, you should consult your dentist or orthodontist for particular retainer maintenance recommendations.


Contact your Pinole dentist, Dr. Hoss Abar, DDS, MSD, at Abar Orthodontics to learn how to clean your retainer.




Braces Vs. Retainers


This media/content or any other on this website does not prescribe, recommend, or prevent any treatment or procedure. Therefore, we highly recommend that you get the advice of a qualified dentist or other medical practitioners regarding your specific dental condition.

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