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How to Take Care of Your Retainer

Teen caring for his retainer

You took care of your braces or Invisalign® clear aligners throughout your whole orthodontic treatment, and look where that got you—to a beautiful, brilliant smile!

Now to maintain your smile, it’s time to give your retainer the same TLC. By storing and cleaning your retainer properly, you’ll keep your retainer in its best condition and your smile in its most beautiful state.

People naturally have questions when learning how to clean retainers for the best results. We’re here to set the record straight! Here’s what you can do to prolong your retainer’s life to maintain your smile.

Simple Rules for Retainer Care

Now that you’re wearing your retainer regularly, committing to good oral hygiene habits will help you keep it in ideal condition. Here are a few things about what not to do with a retainer.

First, let’s explore the ‘don’ts’ when it comes to retainer care.

1. Don’t leave your retainer in while eating.

If you had Invisalign® clear aligners, you’re probably already used to taking out your aligners to eat! It’s important that you remove your retainer when eating or drinking (any beverage besides water).

Food and drinks can damage your retainer or stain a clear plastic retainer. Your retainer will also trap food and plaque between your teeth and the retainer, which will make cleaning more difficult and encourage bacteria growth. The last thing you want is bad breath and funky odors coming from your retainer!

2. Never wrap your retainer in napkins or tissues!

Retainers are small and easily misplaced! Don’t store your retainer on your dinner plate or in a napkin; you may be surprised how many retainers end up in the trash or left at a restaurant.

And if you have a pet, be especially careful with leaving your retainer on the table. Pets love retainers.

Any time you take your retainer out of your mouth, always store it properly in your retainer case to prevent a retainer replacement fee.

How to clean an Essix retainer

We advise that you clean your retainer with mild soap and lukewarm water every time you brush your teeth (2 to 3 times a day). You can soak your retainer in RetainerBrite solution once or twice a week too!

To keep your retainer free of plaque and bacteria, clean your retainer as soon as you take it out of your mouth. It’s easiest to remove plaque on a retainer while it’s still soft. Hardened plaque can be difficult to remove!

Gently brush your retainer with a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive, non-whitening toothpaste or mild soap and lukewarm water after every meal. You want to keep your retainer as fresh as possible throughout the day and night.

How often should you clean your retainer?

Clean your retainer at least twice a day, and try to soak it in a cleaning solution at least once a week. Everytime you clean your teeth, make it a rule to clean your retainer too!

Soaking your retainer each week will soften any built-up plaque, making it easier to remove with a toothbrush.

You can use a denture cleaner or specialized clear retainer cleaner to soak your retainer (like RetainerBrite), but you can also make your own cleaning solution with common household ingredients (like vinegar or baking soda).

How to clean retainers with plaque

If you notice plaque build-up on your retainer, you can use a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water to soak your retainer and soften the plaque. After about 20 minutes of soaking, the layer of plaque should be soft enough to remove with gentle brushing. Rinse the retainer under lukewarm water to wash away the vinegar!

How to clean retainers with baking soda

If you notice odors seeping off of your retainer, you can make a natural soaking solution with a teaspoon of baking soda and a small bowl of water. Soak the retainer for about 20 to 30 minutes before scrubbing it with a toothbrush gently, then rinse it with lukewarm water.

Can you use a denture cleaner on retainers?

Yes, you can clean your retainer with a denture cleaner! Be sure to follow the instructions on the product to prevent leaving your retainer in the solution for too long. (Denture cleaner can cause yellowish discoloration in clear plastic retainers if it’s overused. If this happens to you, try the baking soda solution described above; it could clear up any discoloration.)

We suggest using a solution like RetainerBrite or Polident, specially made for retainers.

The Bottom Line

If you commit to cleaning your retainer everyday, you shouldn’t have to worry about it becoming discolored, smelly or bacteria-ridden. When you’re entering the retention phase of your orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist will tell you everything you need to know about keeping your retainer in its best condition!

Still have questions about how to properly clean retainers?

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! We love to hear from you. We’re here to guide you through your treatment process, from your very first visit, to your last appointment.

If you’re looking for a top orthodontist in South Florida, we’d love to meet you! Request a complimentary exam for you or your child today.