Dr. Righelllis will give you specific instructions before you begin the retention phase and leave with your retainer. However, we would like to provide our patients with a comprehensive list of basic cleaning and care instructions to increase the longevity of your retainer and to use as a resource that you can refer to as needed.
Retainer Care: Basics to Remember
- Use your storage case. Your storage case is an important tool to ensure the retainers safety.
- Store it in a cool place. Retainers can melt and change shape if left in the heat.
- Keep your retainer away from pets and children.
- Never wrap your retainer in a napkin. This may increase your chance of accidentally throwing it away.
- Clean your retainer every time your brush. Plaque and bacteria can and will build up on your retainer unless you keep it maintained.
- Keep your retainer moist. When it dries out, biofilm begins to bond to it.
- Clean your retainer case at least once a day. This will help keep your appliance looking and feeling fresh and new.
Things to Avoid When Caring for Your Retainer
- Do not use toothpaste. Toothpaste is great for your teeth but not so great for retainers. This product contains abrasive compounds that, helps keep your hard tooth enamel clean. The materials found in your retainer are much softer than tooth enamel. Brushing it with toothpaste will scratch and damage it very quickly.
- Do not use mouthwash. Using anything containing alcohol to clean your retainer is a bad idea. The alcohol will dry out the appliance ensuring you will need a replacement sooner than later.
- Do not use denture cleaners. Denture cleaners, such a Polident, may be recommended by your orthodontist as a retainer cleaner. They are great at removing buildup but used over time, they can discolor your retainer. Talk with Dr. Righellis about this first.
- Do not use home cleaning agents. Bleach and other household cleaning products are way too harsh to clean your retainer.
- Do not expose it to heat. Boiling water and even hot water can change the shape of your retainer.
Preferred Natural Retainer Cleaners
Harsh chemicals are not necessary for keeping your retainer in tip-top condition. These natural cleansers work well:
- Baking Soda – Mix with a bit of water to form a paste. Apply it to your retainer and allow it to sit for a few minutes before brushing it off.
- Castile Soap – Mix with essential oils. Soak your retainer or use a soft brush to clean.
- Hydrogen Peroxide – Mix with warm water at a 30:1 ratio and soak for 30 minutes.
- Vinegar – Mix with warm water at about a 50:50 ratio and soak for approximately 15 minutes.
Cleaning by Type of Retainer
How you clean your retainer will depend on the type of appliance you have. A removable retainer will be cleaned much differently than a fixed one. We will explore this in a bit more detail below.
Hawley appliances and C.O.R.s (clear overlay retainers) are removable and require daily cleaning. To keep these appliances looking their best:
- Clean your retainer immediately after removing it from your mouth. This prevents food particles, saliva, and debris from hardening on your appliance.
- Brush your retainer with a soft-bristled brush or a denture brush with warm water (not hot) after each meal.
- Perform a deeper clean a few times a week to scrub away plaque.
- Follow Dr. Righellis’ instructions in regards to soaking or cleaning with over-the-counter products and for removing stubborn tartar.
Fixed or Bonded Retainers
These permanent retainers are bonded to the tongue side your teeth. You will brush as usual, paying special attention to the wire. You must also floss daily since food particles can become lodged in between the wires. To clean fixed retainers:
- Place a long piece of floss between your two front teeth and under your retainer wire. A floss threader may be necessary to help you with this step.
- Move the floss up and down between the teeth and ensure you go below the gum line if possible.
- Move to the next tooth and repeat the above process.
Dr. Righellis and his team are always available to help you with flossing and provide you with some helpful tips.
Contact Us to Learn More
To learn more about retainer care, or if you have questions about any of the services we provide, feel free to contact our Oakland, CA practice.
You can call us at 510-482-0600.