Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

Over the years, Thacker Orthodontics has been a part of celebrating so many patients who have finished their treatment and had their braces removed. There’s nothing quite like the first time you look at yourself in the mirror and see your straight, aligned smile without any metal getting in the way! 

We love these moments because we know just how much they mean to our patients. It’s a huge boost to confidence, and it helps ensure that your teeth stay healthy for years to come. But there’s one more big step that needs to be cared for and that’s your retainer. When the braces come off, it’s time for the retainer to go on. Thankfully with the help of our team at Thacker Orthodontics, the transition will be seamless and you’ll be prepared to care for and clean your retainer!

Why Is it So Important to Keep a Retainer Clean?

Wearing a retainer is an important final stage of your orthodontic treatment and one that we hope you won’t take lightly. Not only is it important to wear your retainer according to Dr. Jim or Dr. MaryEvan’s recommendations, but it is also essential to keep it clean. A clean retainer means you won’t be putting dried saliva back in your mouth that likely contains plaque and bacteria that isn’t healthy for your mouth. 

Just like you need to brush your teeth multiple times a day, it’s also important to scrub your retainer regularly. This will get rid of most of the old saliva, bacteria, plaque buildup, and more that need to be removed. Plus, it’s easier to convince yourself to wear your retainer regularly when you know it will be fresh and clean each time you put it back in.

So let’s get into how to keep your retainer clean! 

Fixed Retainer

Before we talk about caring for removable retainers like Essix or Hawley, we want to talk about fixed retainers. These have a totally different approach to cleaning and care because they stay on your teeth indefinitely. With metal wires that are bonded onto the back of your teeth, fixed retainers are easy to clean and maintain. 

When doing your normal daily brush, we recommend spending a little extra time on your retainer. Angle your toothbrush to go over and underneath the wire, and scrub all around. This intentional brushing should help remove any food particles that can get trapped behind the wire. When flossing, use a threader to get the floss underneath the retainer, and then floss as usual.

Fixed retainers are fairly straightforward, and with a little care and attention, will stay in your mouth indefinitely, maintaining your aligned smile. The two other most common retainer types are Essix and Hawley retainers. An Essix retainer is similar to an Invisalign retainer that is made out of clear plastic that perfectly fits over your teeth and is mostly invisible. A Hawley retainer is made out of acrylic and metal wire that fits into the roof and bottom of your mouth and then around the teeth. 

Here are some tips below on how to care for these removable retainers.

5 Tips for Maintaining Your Retainer

Brush Daily

As we mentioned before, keeping a retainer clean is similar to keeping your teeth clean, with a few distinct differences. We recommend brushing your retainer at least once a day, preferably in the morning after wearing it all night and before you store it to wear later. 

Don’t Use Hot Water

First things first, you want to rinse your retainer well once you’ve taken it out. This will help remove most of the saliva that collects on it, preparing it to be scrubbed. But don’t rinse in hot water! Always use lukewarm water on your retainers to make sure the heat doesn’t warp or distort them. 

Reserve a Toothbrush and Avoid Toothpaste

Once you’ve rinsed your retainer you are ready to give it a quick scrub with a toothbrush. We recommend using a toothbrush that you’ve set aside just for your retainer. This will help you avoid getting any toothpaste on the retainer, which can damage it. Instead of using toothpaste, opt for a gentle cleanser.

Use a Gentle Cleanser

Select your cleanser of choice and use the toothbrush to thoroughly scrub all over the retainer. Since you won’t be using toothpaste, we like to recommend either an alcohol-free mouthwash or a hand soap. These cleaners are easy to find and keep on hand, and they help to kill bacteria without any harsh ingredients that can damage the retainer. Once you are finished brushing the retainer all over, give one more thorough rinse in the lukewarm water and you are ready to store your retainer until its next use.

Deep Clean as Needed

If you find that even after cleaning your retainer daily there still seems to be some residue clinging to it, there are thankfully some simple solutions for that. Grab a denture cleaning soak at your local pharmacy, and soak your retainer for the recommended time. Afterward, you should be able to easily scrub off any remaining buildup with your toothbrush! This is a great option to help keep your retainer in great condition for a long, long time.

Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

Find the Support You Need at Thacker Orthodontics

The good news is that no matter what happens with your retainer, you have people behind you, ready to help out! Everyone at Thacker Orthodontics is rooting for your success, and know that it takes a great team to maintain our oral health over the years. If you have any questions or need help with your retainer, give our Cincinnati or Hillsboro offices a call and we’ll schedule you in. We are thrilled to be a part of your journey!