Effective Strategies for Cleaning and Caring for Your Dental Retainers

Maintaining good oral hygiene is an important aspect of overall health and this includes taking care of your dental retainers. Whether you have recently gotten braces off or use a retainer to straighten teeth, proper cleaning and caring for your retainer is crucial in keeping it effective and ensuring a healthy mouth. But with so many different types of retainers available, it can be overwhelming to know the best ways to clean and maintain them. 

In this blog post we will discuss some effective strategies for cleaning and caring for your dental retainers so that you can keep smiling confidently with a healthy mouth.

What Are Dental Retainers?

Retainers are used for orthodontic treatments. After your braces have done the bulk of the work getting your teeth into their optimal position, the retainers help maintain that position. 

Available as a permanent or temporary fixture, these durable devices are usually customized to fit your mouth and are often made of materials like clear plastic or flexible metal wiring. Retainers help stabilize the newly aligned teeth in place to prevent them from shifting back to the original incorrect positions. 

Types of Dental Retainers

There are various types of dental retainers that your dentist might recommend depending on the length of the treatment, the present condition of your teeth and your oral hygiene practices. Your age and history of dental work can also play a role in the type of retainer used. 

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers are the most common type of retainer and are typically made from a clear plastic material. They are custom-made to fit over the teeth and can be easily removed for eating, brushing and flossing. These types of retainers are usually worn full-time for the first few months after braces are removed and then gradually reduced to only being worn at night.

Clear Retainers

For people who want to remain discreet about wearing a retainer, clear plastic retainers are available. Clear retainers, also known as Essix retainers, are similar to removable retainers but are made from a thinner, more transparent plastic material. The transparent plastic forms a tight custom fit over the teeth and can be removed for eating and cleaning. However, they may not be as durable as other types of retainers and may need to be replaced more frequently.

Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers consist of a wire that goes across the front of the teeth with a small acrylic piece that fits against the roof of the mouth or behind the lower front teeth. The wire is adjustable and can be tightened or loosened by an orthodontist if needed. These types of retainers tend to be more durable than clear or removable retainers but may be more noticeable in appearance.

Fixed Retainers

Lastly, fixed or bonded retainers, also known as permanent retainers, are bonded to the back of the lower front teeth with dental cement. They cannot be removed by the patient and are typically recommended for those who have had significant orthodontic work done or have a high risk of their teeth shifting back into their original position. Fixed retainers are used for several months or years, depending on the condition of the teeth.

Top 5 Cleaning Strategies for Dental Retainers

Now that you know the different types of retainers, how exactly do you care for your unique appliance? 

  1. Brushing: Brush your teeth and your retainer using only a soft-bristle brush. Your dentist can recommend some brushing techniques to help you remove bacteria and particles that might get trapped in your retainer. For hard-to-reach areas of your retainer, you can use a cotton swab.
  1. Soaking: A retainer is exposed to bacteria and food particles throughout the day, even if it is removed when eating. Soaking a retainer in a 50/50 mixture of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes can combat harmful bacteria and ward off plaque. Always rinse the retainer with cold water before use or storage. 
  1. Ultrasonic Cleaners: One of the more advanced strategies for cleaning dental retainers is known as an ultrasonic cleaner. Using sound waves, this high-tech device is designed to clean all crevices of a retainer. Over time, some of these devices can remove stubborn stains and plaque that form on the retainer with frequent use. 
  1. DIY and Natural Cleaning Solutions: For a natural cleaning solution, combine warm water and baking soda. White vinegar can also be used as a solution for deep cleaning. After soaking, use a soft-bristle toothbrush and rinse well with cold water before use. 
  1. Retainer Cleaning Kits: Commercial retainer cleaning kits are available and may be recommended by your dental professional. These kits feature a cleaning brush and a deep sturdy case that allows you to soak the retainer in an effervescent solution. 

Fixed Retainers Cleaning

As these are attached to the teeth it requires very diligent oral hygiene steps. This can include, brushing, flossing, using a floss threader and floss, using soft piks, a sulcabrush and even a water pik.

Pro-Tips from a Dental Professional

  • Rinse After Eating: To keep your retainer in good condition, rinse your retainer after use. Fixed retainers can be flushed with water after eating. 
  • Use Retainer Cases: Due to the delicate nature of a retainer, it is important to place the retainer in its protective case when it’s not in use. Clean your retainer well before storing it and wash the case several times throughout the week. 
  • Replace Regularly: All types of retainers are susceptible to wear and tear and damage caused by constant usage. You may need to replace your retainer over time to maintain healthy, straight teeth. 
  • Regular Dental Care and Visits: Scheduling regular dental visits is essential. Your dentist will visually examine and inspect your retainer at each visit and look for existing or potential damage. 

A Sparkling Smile Starts Now! Schedule a Retainer Care Consultation at Princeview Dental

Dr. Janice Mummery and her team at Princeview Dental Group offer comprehensive dental plans including the creation and placement of retainers to meet your oral hygiene needs and budget. Our modern and welcoming environment is available for all your dental needs.

Contact us at (416) 231-4562 to schedule a consultation or appointment at our dental clinic in Etobicoke.

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