Now to maintain your smile, it’s time to give your retainer the same respect you gave your treatment. By storing and cleaning your retainer properly, you’ll keep your retainer in its best condition and your smile in its most beautiful state—for a lifetime.
How often should I clean my retainer?
Be sure to clean your retainer every time you clean your teeth… which is hopefully twice a day. You can also soak your retainer once or twice a week to eliminate odor-causing bacteria.
When you first begin your retention phase, you’ll be advised to wear your retainer 24/7, day and night, to prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original, pre-treatment position.
When you’re wearing your retainer everyday, it’s important that you clean it everyday. Your mouth is home to over 6 billion bacteria at any given time… yikes!
The bacteria that grows in your mouth will also accumulate on your retainer, which means the bacteria will transfer from teeth to gums to retainer to retainer case. This is why it’s important that you clean all of these things regularly.
Keeping clear plastic retainers clean
The Essix retainer is the most popular choice when it comes to retainers. This retainer looks similar to Invisalign clear aligners and is virtually undetectable when in place.
To clean your Essix retainer, rinse it out with lukewarm water as soon as you remove it from your mouth. It’s a lot easier to remove debris and plaque before they’ve hardened on your retainer.
Gently brush your retainer with a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive, non-whitening toothpaste or mild soap and lukewarm water after every meal. You want to keep your retainer as fresh as possible throughout the day and night!
Cleaning your essix retainer with caution
Your retainer should last about 5 years if you care for it properly! (With our retainer program, you’ll receive up to 4 free replacement retainers per year, one arch per replacement. And after 6 years, you’re eligible to re-enroll in the program! Give us a call to learn more about our program.)
In the meantime, here are a few things you should keep away from your plastic retainer to prolong its life:
- Hot or boiling water
- Washers and dryers
- Abrasive chemicals (e.g. whitening toothpaste, mouthwash with alcohol, harsh soaps)
Heat and harsh chemicals can melt your retainer, warp it, discolor it, or cause it to lose its shape. Using any of these harmful machines or chemicals will likely require you to buy a replacement retainer.
How to clean retainers with vinegar
Vinegar is one of the best retainer cleaners because it’s safe, non-abrasive, and you likely already have some in your kitchen cupboard.
Grab a small bowl big enough to submerge the retainer. Add equal parts lukewarm water and white vinegar.
Place your retainer in the bowl and let it soak for around 20 minutes. Take it out and use a soft-bristle brush to gently brush the retainer. This will help to remove any hardened plaque or debris.
Rinse your retainer with lukewarm water, dry it off, and place it back in a clean retainer case or back in your mouth. If you notice any plaque remaining, or your retainer smells funky, you can repeat this process!
Don’t soak your retainer for too long
If you are using vinegar or retainer cleaning tablets to soak a retainer, keep an eye on the time. You don’t want to leave your retainer in for too long and risk damaging it.
Twenty to thirty minutes will be more than enough time to kill any lingering bacteria or eliminate any residual odors. If you’re using a retainer cleaning solution, be sure to read the instructions on how long to soak!
Keep your retainer case clean
Don’t forget to clean your retainer case too. The last thing you want to do is place a clean retainer back in a dirty case. This defeats the purpose of cleaning your retainer, doesn’t it?
You can use any of the above solutions for your retainer case or use an antibacterial soap with lukewarm water to scrub the case.
Give your case a clean at least once a day, and make sure it’s completely dry to prevent mold on your retainer.
What happens if I don’t clean my retainer?
While your retainer is in your mouth, it will continue to collect plaque and bacteria and may even start to smell or develop a strange taste if it’s not cleaned often enough. (Yuck!)
Dirty retainers can also harbor harmful bacteria that you don’t want flourishing in your mouth. These can cause yellow teeth, bad breath, gum disease and even tooth decay.
The Bottom Line
If you commit to cleaning your retainer every day, you shouldn’t have to worry about it becoming discolored, smelly, or bacteria-ridden. When you’re entering the retention phase of your orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist will tell you everything you need to know about keeping your retainer in its best condition!
Still have questions about the best ways to keep your retainers clean?
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! We love to hear from you. We’re here to guide you through your treatment process, from your very first visit, to your last appointment.