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Cleaning your teeth is crucial for good oral health. But it is also recommended to clean any appliance that goes into your mouth.
Orthodontic appliances like retainers can easily collect bacteria and become a magnet for plaque and food debris.
Unsanitary retainers can cause bad breath and an overall uncomfortable feeling in your mouth.
The type of retainer will change the way you care for it. Some dentists recommend retainers that are fixed into place. However, removable options are also available.
Regardless of the type of retainer you have, speak with your dentist about the proper way to care for it. Doing so ensures the appliance stays in good condition and doesn’t get damaged.
Fixed retainers, or bonded retainers, get cemented to your teeth. They are great options for people that are not compliant with wearing removable ones.
A fixed retainer should be cleaned by:
You can also use a water flosser (oral irrigator) as an adjunct tool to help keep your fixed retainer clean.
Clear plastic retainers look like clear aligners, but are usually thicker. They are discreet and removable.
To clean a clear plastic retainer:
A Hawley retainer is custom-made to fit your mouth. It is made with acrylic and metal to help prevent your teeth from shifting. It is a removable appliance.
A Hawley retainer will often accumulate plaque and food debris on the acrylic palate portion of the retainer. It is important to keep it clean to avoid damage over time and prevent bad breath.
To keep a Hawley retainer clean:
Clear aligner trays are similar to clear plastic retainers. They are designed to fit around your teeth and are removable appliances.
It is essential to keep them clean so they can do what they’re made for: keeping your teeth in the correct position while looking nearly invisible.
Unsanitary aligner trays will make your teeth look dirty and can affect the quality of your oral health.
To keep your clear aligner trays clean:
If you notice your retainer looks a bit different than when you first got it, this is a sign to give it a good clean. Here are some other signs:
Ideally, you should be cleaning your retainer daily.
If you brush your teeth twice a day, try to clean your retainer at the same time. This makes the process more convenient.
Some products are great for cleaning retainers, while others can cause significant damage.
The best retainer cleaning products are ones that are mild and non-abrasive. Recommended cleaning products include:
Baking soda is a good disinfectant for retainers and can help whiten retainers that become discolored.
Denture cleaner is a popular option for cleaning retainers because it is designed for oral appliances. You should soak your retainer in a denture cleaner for a minimum of 20 minutes and then rinse thoroughly after with warm water and a soft toothbrush.
White vinegar is an option for cleaning retainers because it is a disinfectant that can help remove odors and stains. Dilute vinegar with water in a small bowl and soak your retainer. After you remove it, rinse and brush your retainer off with water.
In order to learn how to clean your retainer and what products are safe, speak with your dentist.
There are always some common misconceptions about retainers and you want to avoid them to prevent damage.
Some retainer cleaning myths include:
You should avoid certain types of cleaning products or methods to avoid damage and distortion.
Do not use microwaves, dishwashers, or boiling water to clean your retainers. The high heat can cause the retainer to warp and not fit properly.
Do not soak your retainer for too long in solution as it can damage the metal in a Hawley retainer.
If you choose to soak your retainer in mouthwash, opt for an alcohol-free mouthrinse as alcohol is harmful to plastic retainers or aligners.