If you ever had braces, then you know about retainers. They help keep your teeth straight after your braces are off. Orthodontists suggest that you wear your retainers as long as possible to keep your teeth from moving back, so it’s important to keep them clean and functional.
From how to know it’s time to clean them to the best ways to clean your retainers, we’ve got you covered! Read on to learn everything you need to know about keeping your retainer in the best possible shape.
Signs It’s Time to Clean Your Retainer
Some people clean their retainers before they put them in at night, and it’s not a bad routine to adopt. Many experts suggest it’s the best time to do it, and isn’t it nice to pop in a clean retainer just after you brush your teeth?
Aside from a daily cleaning, it helps to do a thorough soak to prevent build-up. Remember, you wear them all night, so your saliva can leave behind deposits when you pop them out in the morning. Watch for these signs that it’s time for a more thorough cleaning:
- You notice a bad taste or odor.
- It’s uncomfortable to wear.
- You see a cloudy appearance, a film, or white spots on the retainers. The white spots may be calcium deposits from your saliva.
- Whenever you haven’t cleaned them for a week or more.
- The retainer looks like it’s cracking or breaking.
- You develop cavities, tooth sensitivity, or inflamed gums.
The Best Ways to Clean Your Retainers
Knowing when to clean your retainers is only half the battle, right? Different types of retainers have unique cleaning processes, but no matter what kind you have, it’s important to be careful with them. Let’s look at the different types of retainers and how to keep them clean.
How to Clean Plastic Retainers
Start with a soft-bristled brush and mild soap or cleaner. Gentle brush the retainers to get rid of dirt and buildup. Rinse them thoroughly.
How to Clean Clear Retainers (Including Essix Retainers)
Rinse your clear retainers every time you take them out. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently remove film, food, or buildup. Avoid using any toothpaste or cleaners that could lead to discoloration. Instead, look for cleaners made specifically for clear retainers. We’ll get to some suggestions later.
How to Clean Invisalign Retainers
If you chose Invisalign for your orthodontic treatment, then you have a special type of retainer known as a Vivera retainer. You should have received instructions on how to clean them, but you can also purchase a custom cleaning kit from Invisalign.
How to Clean Hawley Retainers
Hawley retainers use a combination of wire and plastic, so it’s a good idea to rinse them when you take them out. For best results, use cool water. Additionally, there are some products available for soaking Hawley retainers on occasion. Never let your Hawley retainer soak in any cleaning agent for more than fifteen minutes.
How to Disinfect Retainers
When you get sick you should still wear your retainers as directed. However, once you recover, it’s a good idea to disinfect them to avoid getting sick again. Use an antibacterial dish soap or Listerine to kill any signs of bacteria or viruses.
Top Cleaning Products for Retainers
When you want to do a deeper clean, it helps to use a product made for retainers. There are several options available in the United States, and you can probably find these retainer cleaners at your local grocery store or drug store.
1. Retainer Brite Cleaner
Retainer Brite is a popular option for retainer wearers because it’s versatile. Not only does it eliminate odors and buildup on retainers, it works wonders on most dental appliances, including dentures, mouthguards, and Invisalign trays.
The tablets contain some natural ingredients, including baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and citric acid. They also use a bleaching agent that’s common in teeth whitening agents.
How to Use Retainer Brite
Retainer Brite is easy to use. You just need water, a glass large enough to hold your retainers, and the Retainer Brite tablet.
- Add enough water to the glass to cover your retainers.
- Drop in a Retainer Brite tablet.
- Once the solution turns blue and starts bubbling, put your retainers in the glass.
- Wait fifteen minutes, then remove your retainers. Do not let them soak longer than fifteen minutes.
- Rinse the retainers under running water for a few minutes.
2. Fresh Guard by Efferdent for Retainers
Efferdent is a household name thanks to its bubbling denture-cleaning solution, but the company also makes a unique formula for retainers. Fresh Guard promises to clean and sanitize retainers and dental appliances in just five minutes.
How to Use Fresh Guard
To use Fresh Guard, you need a glass or bowl that fits your containers and warm water.
- Fill your glass or bowl with warm water.
- Dump the contents of one Fresh Guard packet into the water. Wait for it to foam up and turn blue.
- Gently drop your retainers into the glass or bowl and let soak for five minutes. Do not let them soak longer than ten minutes.
- Rinse your retainers under running water for a few minutes.
3. WhiteFoam Cleaner
What do you do when you’re traveling and need to clean your retainers? WhiteFoam cleaner is an option that doesn’t require water to soak or rinse your retainers. Plus, it uses hydrogen peroxide, which happens to be a common teeth whitening agent.
How to Use WhiteFoam Cleaner
There’s no need to rinse or soak? Sign me up! This may be the quickest, easiest option for cleaning your retainers. Apply one pump to each of your retainers (top and bottom) and spread it around with your finger. Put the retainers in your mouth, and spit out any excess foam.
4. UV Sanitizer
UV (ultraviolet) light kills 99.9% of bacteria, so if that’s a serious concern for you, then you may want to consider this option. You get a lightweight, portable case that usually operates on batteries. Drop your retainers in the case for ten minutes and you’re good to go.
Natural Cleaning Methods
If you prefer to avoid chemical cleaners and opt for more natural methods, there are plenty of ways to clean your retainers.
1. Clean Retainers with Water
For a quick, on-the-run clean, rinse your retainers with water. You can even give them a quick clean in your mouth by swishing water around, then spitting it out.
2. Brush Gently with Toothpaste
Unless your retainer expressly says not to use toothpaste, you can brush them when you brush your teeth. Make sure you choose a soft-bristled brush and avoid whitening toothpastes. When you’re done, rinse your retainer under running water until all toothpaste residue is gone.
3. How to Clean Your Retainers Using Baking Soda
Baking soda is a common household ingredient that serves many purposes, including retainer cleaning. It’s a natural disinfectant that can help whiten retainers.
To clean and disinfect your retainers with baking soda, make a paste by mixing water into the powder until it’s thick enough to spread on your retainers. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently scrub the baking soda paste over your retainers. Make sure you thoroughly rinse them to remove all residue.
4. How to Clean Your Retainers with Vinegar
Vinegar is an inexpensive and effective cleaning agent. It’s a common household item that disinfects and removes odors. Note that a vinegar soak may take a little longer and the smell is quite strong.
Combine white vinegar with equal amounts of warm water in a bowl or dish. Soak your retainers for twenty minutes. You can use a soft-bristled brush to scrub away any remaining residue and then thoroughly rinsed with cold water. Soak for another twenty minutes.
5. Can You Clean Retainers with Castile Soap?
Castile soap is a gentle cleaning product that is easy to find and use. Add a little of the soap to warm water, dip your retainers in the solution, then gently scrub them with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Soak the retainers for two minutes and rinse thoroughly with cool water or soak in distilled water.
Retainer Cleaning Tips and FAQs
We know you probably still have a few more questions about retainer care, so we created a list of bonus tips and FAQs.
1. Never Use Heat to Clean Retainers
Applying heat to your retainers can damage them. That means no hot water, boiling, microwaving, or putting it through the dishwasher. You may want to be cautious about leaving your retainers in the sun for too long, like in your car during summer.
2. Can I Boil My Retainers?
No, the boiling hot water will likely destroy your retainers.
3. How to Keep Your Retainer Case Clean?
It’s easy to forget about your case, but bacteria and other contaminants build up if left unchecked. You may want to clean your case every time you put your retainers in.
- Run the case under hot water for a few seconds.
- Use dish soap and a sponge to scrub it for about twenty seconds.
- Gently dry the case with a clean towel.
4. Can I Use a Denture Cleaner on My Retainers?
Though similar, denture cleaner and retainer cleaner are two different formulas. It’s important to stick with compounds created specifically for retainers because denture cleaner can cause your retainers to yellow.
However, if you don’t have a choice, it’s possible. Be careful with the soak time and gently brush immediately after removing the retainers from the denture solution.
5. Can I Use Mouthwash to Clean My Retainers?
Mouthwash is not the best option for cleaning retainers. While it can kill bacteria and leave them smelling fresh, many mouthwashes are alcohol-based. The alcohol in the mouthwash can damage your retainer, especially those made of plastic.
If you have no choice but to use mouthwash, mix it with lukewarm water first. Soak the retainers for no more than a few minutes, then rinse them thoroughly.
Properly caring for your retainers will extend their life, but not make them last forever. Be sure to replace your retainers if they are damaged or your teeth shifted.