Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

At Orthodontics of South Miami, we know what a big moment it is to finally get those braces off and show off your new smile to the world. After months or years of treatment, it is thrilling to feel confident in your beautiful, straight teeth. And while we are ready to celebrate along with you, we also have to remind you of another important step: wearing your retainer. 

Keeping teeth in great shape over the long term means being diligent about wearing your retainer! It might seem hard to remember at first, but with a bit of practice, it will be second nature. And it’s not only about remembering to wear it. It’s also essential to keep it clean in order for it to last for many years to come!

Dr. Ross has seen so many patients who have learned the art of caring for their retainer, and also those who haven’t. They hate to see all your hard work and investment wasted just because you don’t remember to wear their retainer or maintain it well! Instead, they decided to share some of their best tips for caring for your retainer in order to keep the beautiful, aligned teeth and great oral health that you deserve!

Tips on How to Keep Your Retainer Clean

Each type of retainer requires a different approach to care, so let’s get into it!

Essix Retainer

An Essix retainer is made out of a clear plastic tray that is shaped to perfectly fit your teeth. Because it fits over your teeth, it has deep grooves on the inside and outside, matching the real shape of your teeth. It’s important when cleaning your Essix retainer to carefully clean out the grooves and bumps (just like your real teeth!) to prevent the buildup of plaque and minerals from your saliva. 

To start, rinse your Essix retainer with lukewarm water as soon as you remove it. A good rinse right away will help prevent plaque, bacteria, and minerals from drying onto your retainer, making it more difficult to clean later. Once rinsed, grab a soft-bristled toothbrush that you have reserved especially for your retainer. Then choose a cleaning solution–we recommend either an alcohol-free mouthwash or even a gentle hand soap. Use the toothbrush to scrub the inside and outside of your Essix retainer trays. Then rinse well again with lukewarm water.

A couple of quick tips: be sure to never use hot water on your Essix retainer as it can warp the plastic. And also never use toothpaste to scrub your retainer, as the tiny abrasive properties in most toothpaste can scratch your retainer and make it more susceptible to bacteria and plaque growth. If you notice your retainer getting dirty with build-up, even after you clean it diligently, don’t worry. It’s normal for there to be some mineral buildup from your saliva, and it can usually be easily removed by soaking the retainer in a denture solution like Polident. This should help loosen up the buildup and make it easy to scrub away with the toothbrush.

Hawley Retainer

A Hawley retainer is one of the classic retainer styles, and it still works great for many patients today! Made out of acrylic and metal wire, it will perfectly fit into the roof or bottom of your mouth and clip onto your teeth. Hawley retainers often have bumps that mimic the palette of the roof of your mouth, so keeping it clean is really important. 

You will clean your Hawley retainer similar to how you clean an Essix retainer! Scrub well daily with a gentle cleaning solution, rinse well, and soak in a denture or retainer solution if you need an even deeper clean. And similarly to the Essix, you shouldn’t use hot water or toothpaste!

Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is one of the most straightforward ones because you don’t have to remember to take it in or out! A metal wire is fixed onto the inside of your teeth using a nontoxic bonding agent and stretches along either the top or bottom of your teeth or both. It’s wonderfully discreet and generally easy to care for. 

Keeping a fixed retainer clean is the same as keeping your teeth clean, but with a little extra intention. For example, when brushing, you should be sure to scrub in and around your fixed retainer, angling your brush to go over and under the wire and around the bonding. This will remove potential food particles that get stuck, and bacteria that eat on tooth enamel and become plaque and tartar. When flossing, use a floss threader to get the floss underneath the wire, and then continue flossing as normal. 

Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

We can help!

You are ready to do your part to care for your retainer and keep it clean and functional, and we are ready to support you! Regardless of what happens with your retainer, Orthodontics of South Miami is only a phone call away to help you manage your long-term oral healthcare. Give one of our offices in South Miami, Pinecrest, or Kendall a call if you need us!