It's a big day: you've been wearing braces for months or years and have finally received your retainer from your orthodontist. Wear it for the next two steps. Keep it up. But how exactly? We have some pointers on how to keep your retainer clean.
How can I keep my retainer clean?
Maintaining your retainer's cleanliness and freshness is crucial for maintaining good oral health. Here are some pointers and tricks for keeping your retainer as pristine as possible while wearing it on a daily basis.
1: Clean your retainer regularly.
We know it’s not news to you that these retainers are on your teeth, so it’s imperative to ensure they stay clean so they work effectively and so your oral health isn't impacted by a dirty retainer.
Removable retainers can be cleaned with lukewarm water following each meal. For a deeper clean, try mixing the water with mild dish soap. Do not use toothpaste to clean your retainer, as its abrasive qualities can scratch its surface, and scratches are the perfect spot for bacteria to hide.
Retainers that are fixed or bonded should be flossed every day. Using a 6-inch piece of floss, bring it up and down between your teeth, all the way to the gum line while bringing it under your retainer wire (and below the gum line if possible). The next area to be cleaned is reached by sliding the floss sideways. For every tooth that is connected to your permanent retainer, repeat the procedure.
2: Heat is not your (retainer’s) friend.
Though you may enjoy a hot summer day spent at the beach or a hot tea on a cold winter’s day, your retainer won’t. In addition to debris getting stuck in your retainer in these cases, leaving it out in the heat can render it useless.
Even though your retainer is a marvel of contemporary engineering, it is still made of plastic and will warp if left in your mouth while drinking that hot beverage or on the dashboard of your car on a July day. Any warping will cause your retainer to become misshapen and less effective at holding your teeth in place because it is made specifically to fit your mouth. As a result, always handle with care and only clean with warm water.
3: No harsh chemicals are 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 Streptococcus, which cause strep throat, chemical cleaning tablets can be used to kill these. Otherwise, your routine soap and water should suffice.
4. Soak only as long as required.
If you do use cleaning tablets, you might want to set an alarm on your phone before soaking your retainer (ask your orthodontist how long you should soak your specific retainer brand, or check the packaging on the tablets).
It can also be soaked in mouthwash to keep it smelling fresh - just mix in an equal amount of lukewarm water. And only soak your retainer in mouthwash occasionally if the mouthwash contains alcohol.
5. Store your retainer in its case
Removable retainers have potential drawbacks. You can take them with you when you go out to eat, which makes eating simpler, but if you have a tendency to be forgetful, you might end up losing your retainer or putting it in danger of becoming dirty or damaged.
Your retainer comes with a case to prevent all that. Use the case diligently to avoid mishaps.
6. Replace as needed.
Retainers have a useful lifespan just like anything else. Despite your best efforts to keep them clean, over time they may become loose and stop fitting your teeth as tightly as they once did, or calcium may build up and start to affect how the retainer fits.
When these things happen, it’s time to get a new retainer. At 5000 Yonge Dental, 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.
Accidents happen. In the aforementioned circumstances, retainers either get lost, get broken, or simply stop working. You'll want to keep an extra retainer on hand to use in the interim to stop your teeth from shifting because getting a new retainer may take some time (especially a danger in the first few months after your braces are removed).