7 Tips on How to Keep Your Retainer Clean & Fresh

Congratulations on making it through your braces treatment. Now it's time to wear your retainer. The next steps you have to take are wearing and maintaining it. Here, our Antigonish dentists share tips on how you can keep your retainer clean.

Keeping Your Retainer Clean

An essential part of your oral hygiene routine is keeping your retainer fresh and clean. Below we've shared tips and tricks on how you can help your retainer stay squeaky clean and last as long as possible with everyday wear.

1: Clean your retainer often.

We know it’s not news to you that these retainers are on your teeth, so it’s imperative to ensure they stay clean so they work effectively and so your oral health isn't impacted by a dirty retainer.

You are able to clean removable retainers with lukewarm water after each meal. If you would like to give your retainer a deeper clean you can add mild dish soap to the water. Never use toothpaste to clean your retainer because it's abrasive and can scratch the surface. Scratches on your retainers are ideal places for bacteria to hide.

If your retainer is bonded or fixed you will have to floss it every day.  Move a 6-inch piece of floss, under the wire of your retainer, bringing it up and down between your teeth, all the way to the gum line (and if possible, beneath the gum line). Then slide the floss sideways to the next area to be cleaned. Repeat the process with each tooth that is attached to your permanent retainer.

2: Heat isn't kind to your retainer.

While it may be nice to enjoy a hot cup of tea on a cold winter day, or relaxing to spend the hottest days of summer at the beach, your retainer won't like it at all. On top of the debris that could get stuck in your retainer during these situations, leaving it out in the heat could make it useless.

Though your retainer is a marvel of modern engineering, it’s still a piece of plastic that will warp if left on your car’s dashboard on a July day (oops) or in your mouth when you sip on that hot drink. Since your retainer is custom-made to precisely fit your mouth, any warping will result in it becoming misshapen and less effective at holding your teeth in place. So, always handle with care – and clean only with warm water, never hot.

3: You don't need to use harsh chemicals.

When you are cleaning your retainer you can skip harsh chemicals and just use the combination of water and dish soap that was detailed above.

If you are worried about bacteria such as Streptococcus, which causes strep throat, chemical cleaning tablets can be used to kill these. Otherwise, your routine soap and water should suffice.

4. Soak only as long as needed.

You may want to set an alarm on your phone when soaking your retainer if you do use cleaning tablets (ask your orthodontist how long you should soak your specific retainer brand, or check the packaging on the tablets).

You are also able to soak your retainer in mouthwash to help it smell fresh- just combine it with an equal amount of lukewarm water. And you should only do this occasionally if the mouthwash you are using contains alcohol.

5. Keep your retainer in its case

Removable retainers can be a double-edged sword. You can take them out to eat, which makes eating easier, but if you tend to be absent-minded, you could find yourself losing your retainer or leaving it at risk of getting dirty or damaged.

Your retainer comes with a case to prevent all that. Use the case diligently to avoid mishaps.

6. Replace your retainer as required.

As with everything, retainers have a lifespan for when they are useful. As time goes on your retainer could become loose and not fit your teeth as nicely as it did before, or calcium could build up on your retainer affecting the way it fits, despite doing your best to keep it clean. 

When these things happen, it’s time to get a new retainer. At Antigonish Family Dentistry, we can create an impression of your teeth and have a brand new retainer made for you.

7. Be sure to have a spare retainer ready.

Accidents can occur. Retainers can get damaged or lost, in the scenarios detailed above, or they just become worn out. It can take time to get a new retainer, so you'll want to keep a spare one on hand to use in the meantime to prevent your teeth from shifting (especially a danger in the first few months after your braces are removed).

Contact our dentists in Antigonish now, with any questions you may have regarding the maintenance of your retainer.

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