Dental Hygiene,  Orthodontics

Dental Retainer Hygiene – How to Clean and Store Retainer?

After the hard work and time invested in orthodontic treatment, retainers become an essential part of maintaining that picture-perfect smile. Their job is to ensure that teeth remain in their newly aligned positions after braces or other alignment treatments. Since retainers are in direct contact with your teeth for extended periods, proper hygiene is crucial. Proper care, cleaning, and storage of retainers are essential for their effectiveness and longevity.

Why is Cleaning Your Dental Retainer so Important?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance usually made of plastic and metal, prescribed by orthodontists to keep teeth in place after braces or other orthodontic procedures. They are custom-made to fit the mouth of each patient. Dental retainers work on a principle similar to mouth guards, therefore this guide is also great for maintaining the hygiene of devices used to protect teeth from night bruxism.
Retainers come into direct contact with the mouth, making them susceptible to bacteria, plaque, and tartar build-up. Not cleaning a retainer can lead to oral health issues such as bad breath, gum diseases, and tooth decay. Moreover, a dirty retainer can become discolored or develop an unpleasant odor over time. Incorrect storage can also lead to physical damage or deformation.
Therefore, maintaining proper hygiene and storage practices is crucial for the following reasons:

  • Preventing Bacterial Growth: Regular cleaning inhibits bacterial growth that can lead to unpleasant odors and potential oral health issues.
  • Maintaining Effectiveness: A well-maintained retainer functions properly, ensuring that teeth stay in place.
  • Extending Lifespan: Proper care can significantly extend the retainer’s lifespan, saving time and expense in replacements.

How to Clean a Retainer

Proper cleaning of your retainer involves several steps and knowing what products to use.

1. Daily Cleaning

Clean your retainer every time you brush your teeth. This prevents the build-up of bacteria and plaque.

  • Rinse Thoroughly: Start by rinsing your retainer under lukewarm water to wash away saliva and loose particles.
  • Use a Soft Toothbrush: Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and a non-abrasive toothpaste or soap to gently brush the retainer. Don’t use hot water as it can warp the retainer.
  • Rinse Again: Rinse the retainer thoroughly under running water.
  • Avoid Hot Water: Never use hot water, as it can warp the retainer’s shape.
  • Consider Specialized Solutions: If recommended by your orthodontist, use a retainer cleaning solution according to the instructions on the package.

2. Deep Cleaning

Performing a deep cleaning at least once a week can help maintain the retainer in optimal condition.
This can be done using different methods:

  • Soak in a Denture or Retainer Cleaner: Soak your retainer in a denture cleaner by following the instructions on the package.
  • Retainer Cleaning Solutions: There are specialized cleaning solutions available for retainers.
  • Vinegar and Water Solution: Mix equal parts of white distilled vinegar and lukewarm water in a dish and soak your retainer in this solution for 15-30 minutes, followed by a thorough brushing.
  • Rinse and Brush: After soaking, rinse the retainer thoroughly and brush it gently to remove any lingering deposits.

Note: Avoid using bleach or mouthwash containing alcohol, as they can damage the retainer material.

How to Store a Retainer

Proper storage is crucial to protect your retainer from damage and contamination.

  • Use a Proper Case: Always store the retainer in a designated hard case that allows for air circulation. Preferably use case in which it came in. If lost or damaged ask your dentist for a replacement.
  • Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Don’t leave the retainer in hot or cold environments, such as a car, as extreme temperatures can cause deformation. Keep the case in a cool, dry place away from heat.
  • Keep Away from Pets and Children: Store the retainer in a place inaccessible to pets or your kids, as they may be attracted to the smell and can chew on it.
  • Permanent Place: When at home, it’s a good idea to keep it in the same place so you always know where it is.

Tips for Maintaining a Retainer:

  • Avoid wrapping your retainer in a napkin or tissue as you might accidentally throw it away.
  • Don’t expose it to heat including hot water, as it can cause the retainer to warp.
  • Bring your retainer to your dental appointments to ensure it’s in good shape.

Bottom Line

A retainer plays an essential role in maintaining your smile after orthodontic treatment. Taking care of your retainer by cleaning it regularly and storing it properly is vital for its efficacy and longevity. Incorporate retainer cleaning into your daily oral hygiene routine, and remember to handle it with care. Only by adhering to these guidelines and following any specific instructions from orthodontic professionals, you can ensure that your retainer remains in optimal condition

This article is complete and was published on August 18, 2023, and last updated on August 18, 2023.

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