how to clean retainers

How To Clean Retainers? Advice From Orthodontist

If you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, you may be wondering how to clean retainers most efficiently.

You have probably spent a lot of time and money on your treatment and do not want to acquire another retainer just because it is dirty.

Well, do not worry about that anymore, this Ddbd guide will outline how to clean retainers in the best way possible.

We will also talk about the various types of retainers and why you should clean them. You will also discover several retainer cleanings tips and answers to frequently asked questions about cleaning retainers.

Let’s take a look at the different types of retainers available on the market.

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What are the types of retainers?

A retainer is a device that holds teeth after orthodontic treatment or when braces are removed. Retainers are an essential part of many orthodontic patients’ dental care. It helps to maintain the changes made by braces and, on some occasions, can be used as a permanent solution for moving jaws.

Three types of retainers can be used to correct straighten teeth. They are:

Clear plastic retainers: Clear plastic retainers are only visible when the patient smiles. They do not need to be worn regularly- only until the teeth return to their desired location. 

Hawley retainers: Hawley retainers are also removable ones made up of acrylic plastic and thin metal wires. They are more structured than regular plastic retainers and serve the purpose more effectively.

Permanent retainers: Permanent retainer is an orthodontic device that is constructed with metal wires. It is glued permanently to the back of your teeth to provide retention and keep teeth straight. Permanent retainer costs can be high initially, but it is the best one if you have to wear a retainer for a long time.

Why should you clean your retainers?

Even though they are small, retainers can get very dirty with food particles and bacteria from the mouth. This is why it is essential to know how to clean them properly, so you do not have any issues in the future. 

Cleaning retainer is an essential part of caring for them. If you do not clean it, bacteria and other germs can grow on the device and cause damage to your teeth or gums. The bacteria can lead to gum disease or infections in your mouth.

Cleaning your retainer correctly is essential for the hygiene and longevity of your device. Therefore, you should be aware of various methods for cleaning retainers correctly. Let’s look at the best practice to kill bacteria and disinfect retainers.

How To Clean Retainers?

how to clean retainers

There are several products out there that will make the process of cleaning retainers more convenient.

Chemical agents like toothpaste or denture cleansing tablets can be used but may not be suitable for removable appliances like retainer bands. They may also damage your skin and gum tissue if you frequently use them.

There are several techniques to clean retainers, but it is recommended to use vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, and cleaning crystals or tablets. These cleaning agents are not harsh, and yet they can make your retainers clean as good as new.

Here are detailed instructions for the best methods to clean retainers.

Method 1 How to clean retainers with Vinegar?

Cleaning your retainer with vinegar is an effective way to decalcify the device. White vinegar is an effective cleaning because of its acidic nature. It is also known as a natural disinfectant.

Follow these steps to clean retainers with vinegar:

1. Make a solution of equal parts water and vinegar

how to clean retainers with vinegar-make water and vinegar solution

Take a glass jar and fill it halfway with white vinegar and half with clean water.

2. Soak your retainer

how to clean retainers with vinegar-soak your retainer

Place the retainer in the jar with the tooth side up, ensuring that the solution completely covers it. Soak your retainer for about 20 minutes.

3. Clean and dry the retainer

how to clean retainers with vinegar-clean and dry the retainer

Drain out the solution from the jar. Rinse the retainer with water and allow it to dry before using it or putting it in its case.[1]

Method 2 How to clean retainers with Baking Soda?

You do not need to spend money on expensive cleaners or worry about harsh chemicals. Instead, we recommend using baking soda and water, which is an easy way to get rid of any plaque build-up on your retainer without damaging it. This method also works well for other plastic appliances such as dentures or mouth guards used by athletes. 

Follow these steps to clean retainers with baking soda:

1. Make a thick paste

how to clean retainers with baking soda-make a thick paste

Mix equal parts baking soda with water in a small bowl until you form a thick paste.

2. Apply the paste on the retainer

how to clean retainers with baking soda-apply the paste

Apply the mixture directly onto the appliance with either your fingers or a soft toothbrush using gloves.

3. Clean the retainer

how to clean retainers with baking soda-clean the retainers

Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water afterward, so there is no residue left behind. Let retainer dry before putting it back into your mouth. [2]

Method 3 How to clean retainers with Castile Soap?

Castile soap is a type of vegetable-based soap that is made with only natural ingredients. It does not contain any animal fats, artificial colors or fragrances, or preservatives.

It can be used to clean retainers because it is natural, gentle on the skin, hypoallergenic, biodegradable, non-toxic, pH neutral, and contains no chemicals or detergents.

Another benefit of using Castile soap to clean retainers is readily available at most supermarkets and drugstores.

Follow these steps to clean retainers with castile soap:

1. Mix Castile soap and warm water

how to clean retainers with castile soap-mix castile soap and warm water

In a clean container, combine a few drops of Castile soap with warm water. Make sure there is enough room for a retainer to move freely in the container.

2. Soak the retainers in the solution completely

how to clean retainers with castile soap-soak the retainer

Soak the retainers in a container of warm water and a Castile soap mixture. Leaving them submerged for about 2-3 minutes will help loosen up any dirt or grime on the retainer.

3. Rinse the retainer

how to clean retainers with castile soap-rinse the retainer

Rinse the retainers under cool water and then dry with a towel or let air dry on the clean paper before using it or storing it on the case. [3]

Method 4 How to clean retainers with cleaning crystals or tablets?

Ready-to-use cleaning crystals are available at most pharmacies. It is one of the most convenient and effective ways to clean retainers.

Follow these steps to clean retainers with cleaning crystals or tablets:

1. Mix cleaning crystals or tablets with water

how to clean retainers with cleaning tablets-mix cleaning tablets with water

Dilute the cleaning crystals first in a clean container of warm water.

2. Dip your retainer to clean

how to clean retainers with cleaning tablets-dip retainer to clean

Dip your retainer on the container and let it soak for 3-5 minutes to fully clean.

3. Rinse and dry the retainer

how to clean retainers with cleaning tablets-dip retainer to clean

Rinse retainers well under warm running water. Do not use hot water or harsh detergents. Allow it to dry thoroughly before storing it in the case. [4]

After you know how to clean retainers, read some tips about what to consider before washing them.

Additional Retainer Cleaning Tips

how to clean retainers-additional tips

1. Rinse your retainers with water

Rinse the retainers with warm, clean water after each use for basic cleaning. You can also brush your retainers with a soft-bristled toothbrush and rinse them with clean water. You should never use hot water and stiff brushes when cleaning your retainers as this will warp the plastic and make it brittle.

2. Avoid using a hard toothbrush

Do not use a hard toothbrush or dental floss to clean the retainers. Toothbrushes and dental floss can cause severe scratches and cut on your retainer. This will destroy the smooth surface of the retainer and make it easily fissure.

3. Store them in a case

After you have finished cleaning, air-dry your retainer and store it in a retainer case. The case can be any plastic or stainless steel container. It allows keeping your retainer clean. To avoid unwanted bacteria from developing, clean your retainer case regularly.

4. Avoid using any chemicals

Please do not use harsh household chemicals or detergents to clean retainers as it can damage the plastic. It would be best if you never soaked your retainers in bleach, as this will cause the retainer to lose its elasticity and become brittle.

5. Do not eat and drink with retainers

You should never eat drink flavored beverages and soda with retainers. But you may also have a question about can you drink water with retainers? It is typically advised to take out removable retainers while drinking hot or cold water. However, you can consume room temperature water with retainers in place.

FAQs about cleaning retainers

How to clean retainers with Hydrogen Peroxide?

To clean your retainer with Hydrogen Peroxide, you have to add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to your retainer, wash it with warm water and let it dry. The hydrogen peroxide gets rid of the germs that can cause bad breath or plaque.

Can you clean retainers with water?

Yes! You can use water to clean your retainers. It will get the job done adequately, but you will need things like vinegar, baking soda, cleaning crystals or tablets, and castile soap for a deeper clean.

Can you clean retainers with dish soap?

You should strictly avoid cleaning retainers with dish soap. It can leave a residue and cause discoloration. Dish soap contains dyes and chemicals that may react badly to the metal of your retainer, leading to rusting or chemical burns. It will also cause plastic retainers to become brittle.

How often should I clean my retainer?

You should clean your retainer daily before applying it to your teeth. If you eat any food with your retainer on, clean it immediately. You must ensure that any food particles are not trapped. Regularly, clean the permanent retainer after each tooth-brushing and during your scheduled dental cleaning appointment.

Can you put retainers in the dishwasher?

No! Dishwasher detergent contains bleach and other chemicals that will damage your retainer over time. Therefore, you should avoid putting them in the dishwasher altogether.

Can you clean retainers with toothpaste?

It is not recommended to clean your retainers using toothpaste. It can leave a residue and leave your retainer looking cloudy. Toothpaste will also cause the plastic to become brittle over time and lose its shape.

Can I clean my retainers with mouthwash?

You should not use mouthwash to clean your retainer thoroughly. To keep it smelling fresh, quickly rinse it with your mouthwash. It is fine to freshen it up with a little bit of mouthwash, but do not use it to clean the entire thing. Your retainer will become brittle and eventually damaged if you use mouthwash.

How to clean retainers with vinegar and baking soda?

Combine vinegar, baking soda, and enough water to form a thick paste. Apply it in the retainer. Using a soft brush, clean your retainers with the paste. Rinse thoroughly with normal water after cleaning them. This approach is used to clean removable retainers.

How to clean Invisalign retainers?

The Invisalign retainer is a plastic-made removable retainer. They can be washed in distilled water regularly, but for a thorough cleaning, use castile soap, vinegar, baking soda, or any other type of cleaning crystals or tablets.

How to clean Essix retainer?

You can use regular distilled water or retainer cleaners to clean your Essix retainers. Essix retainers are made up of delicate transparent plastic. Therefore, never expose it to boiling water or ice-cold water. However, you can brush gently with a soft-bristled brush to clean them.

How to clean clear plastic retainer?

Clear retainers are best cleaned by regular water. Always rinse with clean water after use. This will remove all the food particles, saliva, etc. Clear retainers are delicate, so avoid using harsh chemicals, hot or cold water when cleaning them. However, you should clean your retainer regularly with a retainer cleaner for the deep clean.

How to clean Hawley retainers?

Use cleaning solutions like vinegar and water, vinegar and baking soda, various denture cleaners to clean Hawley retainers. Acrylic plastic and thin metal wires are used to construct the Hawley retainer. As a result, they are sensitive to strong chemicals and extreme temperatures.

How to clean metal retainers?

You can rinse them with lukewarm water, do vinegar soak, gently scrub with the mixture of white vinegar and baking soda paste, use olive oil or use any retainer cleaners available in the market to clean metal retainers.

How to clean a permanent retainer?

The fixed retainer is generally cleaned when you brush your teeth during your daily cleaning. To clean your teeth and retainer, always floss. Do not use a harsh chemical in your mouth that may damage your tooth enamel.
You may have to wear a permanent retainer for a long time. Therefore, keeping your retainer and mouth healthy can be a challenging task. You may also use denture cleansers available on the market to eliminate harmful bacteria build-up on your teeth.

How to clean retainer case?

Gently scrub your retainer case with a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda paste using a soft-bristled brush to clean them thoroughly. Keeping your retainer case clean is also vital for keeping your retainer clean.

How to clean plaque off retainer?

An orthodontic retainer is more prone to plaque build-up. Soak the retainer in cleaning solutions like water and vinegar, or clean it with vinegar paste and baking soda using a soft toothbrush to remove plaque. Vinegar and baking soda acts as natural disinfectants and are suitable for plaque removal.

How to clean retainers at home?

You can use white vinegar, baking soda and olive oil, coconut oil available in your kitchen to clean retainers at home. After you thoroughly clean your retainers with these items, rinse and keep them dry.

How often should you be replacing your retainer?

You have to replace your retainer if it breaks or creates discomfort. Plastic retainers should be replaced every six months, and fixed retainers will endure for years. Porous retainers do not serve their purpose to straighten your teeth. Therefore, keep your retainer always clean. It will help to keep your retainer in good shape for a long time.
See Also: How long do you have to wear a retainer?

How to use retainer cleaning tablets?

Mix the retainer cleaning tablet with regular water, soak it for 3-4 minutes to clean your retainer.  It will help clean your retainer thoroughly to remove excess food particles or debris.

Can denture cleaner be used for retainers?

Yes, denture cleaner can be used for retainers. Your orthodontist will recommend that you use denture cleaners to clean your retainers. They include chemicals that are perfect for your retainers. You must follow the directions on the package carefully.

Where to buy retainer cleaner?

You can buy retainer cleaners from your local drug stores, supermarket or you can also buy them online. You should use the cleaning solution recommended by your orthodontist.

What can I soak my retainer in?

You can soak your retainers in any of these solutions mentioned below:
– white vinegar or baking soda mixed with water
– castile soap and water solution
– cleaning tablets and water solution

What happens if you do not clean your retainer?

If you do not clean your retainer it traps the food particles between your teeth and gums. This can be harmful to your teeth, causing tooth decay or gum diseases. It will also lead to bad breath. Clean retainers after every use and let them dry naturally before storing them. Store your retainers safely by placing them in a retainer case or box.

Do retainers hurt?

Retainers may hurt if it does not fit properly on your tooth. It may also cause some discomfort or pain until you get used to it. Additionally, If there is a bacterial build-up beneath the retainer, it may cause pain in your teeth.
Learn More: Are retainers supposed to hurt?

Final thoughts

Retainers are useful for many reasons from straightening teeth to maintaining beautiful smiles or a bite problem. If you wear a retainer every day, it needs regular care to avoid bacteria build-up on the metal wireframe and plastic tray. It can lead to bad breath and infections in the mouth area if not cleaned regularly.

If you use a retainer to fix your teeth, then it is important that the device is cleaned regularly. This Dbd guide explained how to clean your retainers and why this should be done. We have compiled a list of the best ways to clean your retainer.

We hope you find these suggestions and answers useful. If you believe this is helpful information, please share it with your friends.

About the author

RN Lisa Green
RN Lisa Green
Registered Nurse

As a Registered Nurse, Lisa Green has worked in hospitals, nursing homes, and community health centers across New York. With extensive experience in patient education on various medical topics, she is also passionate about helping people understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to healthcare. At DbdPost, Lisa covers medical news stories while providing advice about different health topics.

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