Retainers play a very important role in ensuring that our teeth stay straight and in position after treatment with braces. However, many of you may want to know how to clean clear retainers safely and effectively. This article will highlight some of the best tips on how to clean clear retainers and of keeping your retainers clean and fresh, as well as some essential retainer care information. Read on to find out everything you need to know about keeping your retainers clean…
Do I Have to Clean My Retainer?
A retainer sits on the inside of your mouth against your teeth, so it can very quickly accumulate plaque, tartar, and bacteria. Similar to how you brush your teeth every day, it is just as important to clean your retainer every day.
After having braces removed, many people are required to wear a retainer on a full-time basis. This is due to the fact that the teeth are not set in a rigid environment. Even after the teeth have been corrected by braces and moved into better positioning, they can still move and shift over time.
A retainer helps the tissues and muscles within the inside of your mouth to hold the teeth in their correct new placements. Some people may even be recommended by their dentist to wear a retainer at night indefinitely to keep their teeth in the correct positioning.
How to Clean Clear Retainers
You may be wondering how to clean clear retainers. There are many different ways to effectively clean your clear retainers. Below, we outline some of the most popular and most effective methods for cleaning clear plastic retainers.
1. Mild Detergent and Warm Water
The most important thing to remember when learning how to clean clear retainers is that less is often better. With this in mind, we’re going to start with one of the safest and most effective ways that you can clean your retainers at home.
To start, get a mild dish soap solution. Some common brands to consider are Dawn and Dial. Using a small amount that is the size of a dime or less, apply the solution to your retainer. Use your fingers to begin working up a good lather and apply more water as necessary to continue building it.
Now, use a dedicated toothbrush to help dislodge small bits of foot and remove surface plaque from your retainer. This toothbrush should be different than the one you use for daily brushing. Once you have removed all of the surface debris, rinse your retainer out under warm running water. Make sure that all soap residue is completely removed and allow the retainer to air dry for best results.
2. The Soaking Method
Another tip to consider when you want to understand how to clean clear retainers effectively is known as the soaking method. First and foremost, this method can entirely be avoided by just remembering to clean your retainer while it is still moist from your mouth.
However, everyone who wears a retainer can remember at least a few times where they were just too tired and forgot to clean their retainer on the way out. The result is that you come home and your retainer is covered with food debris and build-up that just doesn’t seem to budge with normal cleaning methods.
The easiest way to fix this is to rely on a similar process that you would use for stubborn dish stains. Using warm water and a few drops of your preferred dish soap, create a bath to leave your retainer in for a couple hours. Just remember to not leave your retainer in this type of dish detergent bath overnight. This can result in bacteria buildup and can also cause foul odors as well.
After a few hours, brush your retainer like normal. The stuck on food debris and other materials should remove quite easily. Consider applying a bit more liquid soap and giving it a final scrub to ensure any tough residues that were remaining are removed before your next use.
3. Tools for Detailing Work
When you are still new and learning how to clean clear retainers, it’s easy to forget about the finer points of detail work. Just as you floss to remove items from deep within your teeth that brushing can’t reach, there are special steps you must take with your retainer.
First, take a closer look at your retainer. Upon closer inspection, you will likely notice that there are dips between each tooth that likely have a bit more build-up than other areas. As you continue to wear your retainer, this build-up will only continue to grow.
To combat this, consider doing a deeper detail cleaning an average of two to three times a week. You can accomplish this by using a small cotton swab to really dig into the connecting areas of the retainer.
For best results, moisten the cotton swab in your preferred cleaning solution. When cleaning, try using a circular motion and alternate it to help remove stubborn particulate. Switch cotton swabs as necessary to ensure that the cleaning tip remains rigid enough to clean effectively.
4. Moving Onto Specialized Cleaning Solutions
Now that you have a basic understanding of how to clean clear retainers, we’re ready to move onto one of the more specialized options that are currently available. If you were to go to your local big box retailer and go to the dental section, you would likely discover a wide range of specially designed crystals and powders for cleaning retainers and clear braces.
These products are typically mixed with warm or cold water. Your retainer is then placed in then placed in the solution for a given amount of time to facilitate disinfection, odor removal, and to help loosen food debris and other particles.
The biggest advantage of these types of products is that they are great for removing surface stains and killing odor-causing bacteria. Some of the most common brands you will see are Retainer Brite, Fresh Guard, and Efferdent.
However, it’s also very important that you talk with your orthodontist first before using these products. Although the various clear retainers all feature similar construction, the exact materials used in each one can be slightly different. This means that one cleaning solution that may be fine for your friend could actually end up damaging your retainer. To prevent this, always make sure your orthodontist is okay with a cleaning solution and that you follow the directions to the letter.
5. Vinegar Solution
A vinegar solution can also be used to effectively clean your clear retainer. Although vinegar has a strong odor on its own, it tends to fade quickly and can help remove lingering odors that tend to build up with retainers.
To create your own solution, mix equal parts of distilled white vinegar and water. You’re now ready to let your retainer soak for 15 to 30 minutes and then clean like normal. However, you should never use baking soda on your retainer. The reason for this is that baking soda is far too coarse and can cause scratches and other surface imperfections.
6. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is commonly used as an oral debridement agent. Due to the way it bubbles, it can help loosen food particles and other mater. To use it effectively, simply mix an equal amount of three percent hydrogen peroxide and water. The next step is to allow your retainer to soak for 30 minutes before cleaning like normal. Hydrogen peroxide also has the added benefit of killing bacteria too.
Six Top Tips For Removable Retainer Care
1. Avoid Heat
If you expose your clear plastic retainer to any high heats, this can warp and ruin it. It is important to remember that your retainer has been specifically designed for your own teeth and so altering the shape in any way with heat can prevent the retainer from doing its job correctly. Keep your retainers away from:
- boiling water
- the dashboard of your car
When washing your retainer, always be sure to wash it in lukewarm water and avoid using any liquids which are too hot.
2. Skip The Chemicals
It is unnecessary to have to use any particularly harsh cleansers on your retainers to get them squeaky clean. In fact, studies have found that using chemical cleaning agents doesn’t reduce the number of bacteria found on a retainer any more than a simple brushing.
That being said, it has been found that such chemical cleansers are effective in removing “cocci” bacteria such as Streptococcus bacteria, which is the cause of strep throat. If you’re unsure of what strep throat is, this is an infection in the throat and tonsils which causes a sore throat, a fever, plus swollen and red tonsils.
3. Time Your Soak
If you do choose to soak your retainer using chemical tablets, be sure to avoid soaking it for too long. Only soak the retainer for the time it takes to give it a proper clean. The cleaning tablets will usually provide recommended soaking times for cleaning so be sure to follow these guidelines.
If you would like to freshen the smell of your retainer and kill some bacteria, you can do a quick mouthwash soak. Mix lukewarm water with an equal amount of mouthwash for an effective result.
If your mouthwash contains alcohol, be sure to only soak your retainer in this type of mixture on rare occasions. The plastic of the retainer can be harmed by harsh alcohol.
4. Clean Your Retainer Case
It is important to keep your retainer case clean as this can also collect bacteria which can then be transferred onto the actual retainer itself. This is why it is important to clean your retainer case regularly too. Try cleaning it once each day before you put your retainer away into it. Gently scrub all areas of the case with some warm, soapy water, and then rinse it off and pat dry with a clean towel or cloth.
5. Keep Watch of Your Retainer
You will want to keep your retainer away from any pets that you may have so that they don’t chew on it or choke on it. Be mindful of where you place your retainer while you are eating. If you place your retainer on a napkin, you may forget that you put it there and accidentally throw it in the trash. Always be mindful of where your retainer is at all times.
6. Replace as Needed
Retainers, like most things we wear every day, are subject to a heavy amount of wear and tear. With this in mind, it is important to be aware of when a retainer needs to be replaced. Clear plastic retainers can often only last from six months to a few years as the plastic tends to wear away. If you notice that your retainer is particularly worn out, if it is especially dirty looking even after cleaning, or if it no longer fits you properly, it is important to let your orthodontist know as soon as possible so that you can arrange to get a replacement retainer made.
What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Retainer?
If you do not clean your retainer, it will keep collecting plaque, tartar, and bacteria from your mouth while you wear it. Over time, it may even start to taste funny or become very smelly if you don’t clean it as often as you should.
More importantly, your retainer can collect dangerous bacterias such as Streptococcus. Although many bacterias often build up in the mouth, when too many of these build up over time, they can cause illness.
If you leave your retainer unwashed for too long, you may also become exposed to Candida albicans. This is a type of detrimental yeast that is usually found on the inside of the mouth. However, it may begin to accumulate on your retainer, and this could lead to an infection.
Candida and Streptococcus may not be too big of a threat if you have a healthy immune system. However, if your immune system is not fully effective or is in some way compromised, you may need to be a bit more careful when it comes to keeping your retainer clean. If you notice any symptoms within your mouth such as swelling, redness, or any other worrying symptoms, be sure to inform your doctor as soon as possible to avoid it getting any worse and to help fix any issues.
General Oral Health Care Tips and Tips For Keeping Your Teeth Clean and Healthy
Brushing your teeth every night and morning doesn’t completely guarantee that you’re giving your mouth all of the care and attention that it needs. Even a regular oral hygiene routine can leave gaps in your overall oral health if you have some bad habits at the sink. Understanding the proper brushing technique and ensuring you have all the tools you need will make sure you’re fully prepared to pursue a thorough clean. Consider the following dental hygiene tips in order to help you take care of your teeth and take your oral routine to the next level.
Use A Proper Brushing Technique
A very quick wash of your bristles is not enough to completely get rid of leftover food particles and polish your teeth. Instead, you must use a technique which is echoed by the American Dental Association (ADA). This is where you start with your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and then you must use short forwards and backward strokes across the tops and sides of your teeth. Then, you must hold the brush vertically and use several smaller strokes. This allows you to focus on cleaning the backs of your teeth where plaque often builds up.
Many people do brush on a regular basis, however, they just don’t brush enough to keep their teeth fully clean. The ADA recommends brushing your teeth for a minimum of two minutes each time, and this should be done twice each day. If you struggle to clean your teeth for this amount of time, try distracting yourself while you’re doing it. Listen to a short song, watch a 2-minute long video online, or even set a timer on your phone so that you can brush your teeth for the correct amount of time.
Choose The Right Toothbrush
Always look for a toothbrush which has bristles that are small enough to reach into the crevices of your molars. This is where a lot of food and debris can become trapped after you have eaten. According to the International Dental Health Association, the majority of adults require a medium or small size of toothbrush just for this purpose.
Look For The Seal From The ADA
Not all toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste are created equally. For the best quality products, look for those which carry and ADA Seal of Acceptance. These are products which meet strict manufacturing regulations which promise an effective clean with a dosage or fluoride which is suitable for adults and children past a certain age. This seal of approval ensures that you are using a product which has been recommended by the ADA, and it guarantees that you will do a safe and thorough job every single time you brush your teeth.
Floss Properly and Effectively
Similar to brushing, flossing must also be done properly so that, when you floss in between your teeth, you actually remove all of the germs and bacteria that may be resting there. Ideally, you should use a piece of floss which is around 18-inches in length. This allows you to use a fresh area of floss for every few teeth and avoids you from re-adding any of the bacteria into the gaps in the teeth that you have just removed. Keep it in your mind that the floss should rub against your teeth in a motion which creates a backward or forwards ‘C’ shape which wraps itself around each of the teeth.
Use A Mouthwash
Swilling mouthwash around your mouth and teeth, you can clean areas that can’t be reached by brushing or flossing alone. This ensures that your mouth is rid of any bacteria or debris which irritated the gumline and may cause gingivitis. Add a mouthwash to your daily oral care routine so that you can get the best clean you possibly can. You can even use mouthwash when you’re on the go!
Clean Your Toothbrush
You don’t need a piece of specific or special equipment to keep your toothbrush clean. In fact, the ADA warns against keeping your toothbrush covered up as this can actually lead to new bacteria breeding on the brush which then gets introduced into your mouth when you come to brush again. Instead of covering up your toothbrush, simply give it a rinse each time after you have brushed and then allow it to air dry. You should also avoid sharing your toothbrush with other people, including your children.
Change Your Toothbrush Regularly
The bristles of your toothbrush will deteriorate over time and so if you continue to use the same toothbrush for months on end, you may not be getting the best clean result anymore. Be sure to get a new toothbrush every three to four months as this is the optimum timing to get it changed and will ensure that you get the best results from brushing.
Use A Tongue Scraper
Some types of toothbrushes now come with a ridged tooth-scraper on the back of the brush. After you have brushed your teeth, a lot of bacteria can still remain on the tongue, so it is very important to ensure that you brush or scrape your tongue as part of your daily oral care routine. This will banish any bacteria from your tongue, and brushing your tongue will also freshen your breath.
Are you hungry for a midnight snack? Brushing your teeth may well clear away the bacteria from your teeth as well as any food particles. However, if you proceed to eat food after you have brushed your teeth, you will need to brush them again before you go to bed. Having a snack before you sleep and then not brushing can allow sugar and food particles to remain on your teeth for far too long, and this can lead to a fast buildup of bacteria which feeds on it.
Oral hygiene should be an essential part of your daily routine. By following these tips on easy dental health and hygiene, you can improve your cleaning technique to ensure that your mouth and teeth stay in the healthiest possible condition they can.
How to Clean Clear Retainers: Conclusion
By following the tips outlined in our article, you should now have a sound understanding of how to clean clear retainers safely and effectively. Just remember to always discuss any new cleaning method with your orthodontist and to always follow their instructions carefully. If there are any retainer cleaning tips that you have or if you know any better ways of how to clean clear retainers, feel free to post them in the comments area.