Congratulations! You’ve made it through months or years of wearing braces, and you’ve received your retainer from your dentist. Now all you need to do is wear it, and maintain it. But how? We’ve got some tips on how to keep your retainer clean.
How do I keep my retainer clean?
For the next few months, keeping your retainer clean and fresh is going to be an important part of your oral hygiene routine. Here are a few tips and tricks on how to make sure your retainer lasts as long as possible and stays sparkling clean through daily wear.
1: Clean your retainer regularly.
We know it’s not news to you that these retainers are on your teeth, which is why it’s super-important to ensure they stay clean so that they can work effectively and so that your oral health isn't negatively impacted by a dirty retainer.
Removable retainers can be cleaned with lukewarm water after each meal. For a deeper clean, try mixing the water with mild dish soap. Never use toothpaste to clean your retainer, as its abrasive qualities can scratch its surface, and scratches are the perfect spot for bacteria to thrive.
Fixed or bonded retainers should be flossed every day. Using a 6-inch piece of standard dental floss, move it under your retainer wire, sliding it up and down between your teeth, all the way to the gum line (and below the gum line if possible). Then move the floss sideways to the next area to be cleaned. Repeat the process with each tooth that is attached to your permanent retainer.
2: Heat is not your (retainer’s) friend.
Though a hot cup of tea can be ideal on a cold winter’s day, it's not the best thing for your retainer. In addition to making sure that debris is prevented from getting stuck in your retainer, it is important not to subject your retainer to high temperatures, including drinking excessively hot drinks or leaving your retainer out in the sun. Heat can render it useless.
Though your retainer is a marvel of modern engineering, it’s still a piece of plastic that will warp if left on your car’s dashboard on a July day, or in your mouth when you sip on that hot drink. Because your retainer is custom-made to precisely fit your mouth, any warping will result in it becoming misshapen and less effective at holding your teeth where you want them. So, always handle with care – and never use hot water when cleaning your retainer.
3: No harsh chemicals needed.
You can forgo harsh cleansers and chemicals when cleaning your retainer and simply clean it using the dish soap/water combination mentioned above.
If you are worried about bacteria such as Streptocccus, which causes strep throat, chemical cleaning tablets can be used to kill these. Otherwise, regular soap and water should be just fine.
4. Soak only as long as required.
If you choose to use cleaning tablets to soak your retainer, you may want to set an alarm on your phone when soaking. (Speak to your orthodontist to find out how long you should soak your specific retainer brand, or check the packaging on the tablets).
To keep your retainer tasting and smelling fresh you can soak your retainer in a mixture of equal parts mouthwash and lukewarm water, but only do so occasionally if the mouthwash contains alcohol.
5. Store your retainer in its case
Removable retainers can be a double-edged sword. You can take them out to eat, which makes eating easier, but if you tend to be absent-minded, losing your retainer, or leaving it where it may be at risk of getting dirty or damaged, could become an issue.
Your retainer comes with a case to prevent all that. Use the case diligently to avoid mishaps.
6. Replace as needed.
Like anything else, retainers have a useful lifespan. Over time they may become loose and not fit your teeth as snugly as they should, or calcium builds up and begins to impact the fit of your retainer, despite your best efforts at cleaning.
When these things happen, it’s time to get a new retainer. At Collingwood Dental Centre, we can create an impression of your teeth and have a brand new retainer made for you.
7. Remember to keep a spare retainer on hand.
Mishaps happen. Retainers become lost, damaged in the scenarios mentioned above, or they just wear out. Since getting a new retainer may take some time, it's a good idea to keep a spare one on hand to use in the meantime to prevent your teeth from shifting (which is especially important in the first few months after your braces are removed).