Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

Every stage of your orthodontic treatment offers opportunities and challenges. It’s exciting to experience new things and learn fresh habits. It’s especially true when it’s time for the braces to come off! But don’t get carried away with the exciting stuff because there’s one more big learning curve: your retainer. 

Learning how to care for your retainer can lead to a lifetime of improved oral health, not to mention the dazzling, straight teeth you’ll have to show for it. After all, you want your teeth to stay straight after all the hard work and effort you put into your treatment, right? Dr. Adam at Orthodontic Associates knows just how exciting it can be, and is ready to help you learn all the tips and tricks to keep your retainer in great shape.

What’s the Big Deal about Retainers?

So, why do we care so much about retainers anyway? As we said before, continuing to wear a retainer is the best way to maintain straight and healthy teeth for years to come. It might not seem like a big deal now, but as we age, our teeth lose their strength and more easily get cavities, break, or need to be removed. Orthodontics helps mitigate much of that wear and tear over time by improving bite, aligning the jaw, and reducing the amount of food particles that will be trapped in crooked teeth.

Ultimately, orthodontics can only do so much; the rest is up to you! Maintaining excellent oral health is the first step to combatting tooth decay, and it starts with daily brushing and flossing. Keeping your mouth clean also means keeping your retainer clean. You don’t want to keep putting in a dirty retainer that is contributing to plaque buildup or even infection-causing bacteria, do you?

Learn How to Keep Your Retainer Clean

Your process for keeping your retainer clean will change depending on which retainer you have. Regardless of which kind, you will want to clean your retainer at least once daily, and can also deep clean it once a week as necessary. 

Let’s learn a little more about each kind of retainer and how to clean it.

Essix Retainer

An Essix retainer is commonly used by many orthodontists, Dr. Adam included. It is made from the same firm, clear plastic that Invisalign retainers are made from and functions in much the same way. The plastic tray should fit perfectly over your teeth, covering them and holding them in place when you wear them. 

Cleaning this retainer will require a couple of easy tools: a soft-bristled toothbrush used specifically for your retainer, and a cleaning solution such as alcohol-free mouthwash or even hand soap. 

To start, you’ll remove your Essix retainer and give it a good rinse under the faucet with lukewarm water. Note that we never recommend using hot water on your retainer because it can sometimes warp the plastic. Then use the toothbrush and cleaning solution to brush all over the top and bottom of the retainer, taking extra care to scrub the deeper grooves. You should never use toothpaste for this task, as the abrasive properties in the toothpaste can damage the surface of the retainer. Give it another good rinse to remove any residue, and voila! A clean retainer that is ready to be worn or stored until the next use. 

If you notice over time, that despite your best cleaning efforts, your retainer is looking grimy or has buildup in it, don’t fret. This is normal and often comes from the natural calcium and other minerals in your saliva. The easiest way to remove this is by soaking the retainer in a denture cleaning fluid like Polident. After the soak give it another quick scrub with your toothbrush, and the remaining buildup should be easily removed!

Hawley Retainer

A Hawley retainer is made out of acrylic and metal wiring that fits into the roof or bottom of your mouth, and wraps around your teeth, keeping them from shifting. These retainers are sturdy, with lots of small ridges that help them fit comfortably. 

You will treat your Hawley retainer similarly to an Essix retainer, making sure to rinse well when removing, scrubbing with a cleaning solution, and soaking in Polident or other retainer fluid when it needs a deeper clean. It will still be important to not use hot water or toothpaste on your Hawley retainer! 

Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is made of a wire that is cemented onto your teeth to prevent them from shifting after braces are removed. Conveniently placed on the back side of your teeth where it is invisible, a fixed retainer doesn’t need to be removed to clean it, and you never have to worry about losing it or forgetting to put it in!

Cleaning your fixed retainer is similar to your regular brushing and flossing, but with a little extra care. Use your soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub all around your fixed retainer, angling it up, down, and around to remove any trapped food particles or plaque. You’ll also want to floss well using a floss threader. Guide the threader with the floss underneath your permanent retainer and then floss as normal.

Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

Orthodontic Associates Can Help!

The best news about everything you’ve been learning about retainers is that when you come to Orthodontic Associates, you’ll have an entire team ready to help you in any way they can. As Dr. Adam maps out your treatment plan, he will set you up with all the recommendations and care tools you need along the way to take great care of your retainer and maintain that stunning smile. Get in touch and set up an appointment today at one of our offices in New Port Richey, St. Petersburg, or Bradenton!