Retainers are key components in your orthodontic treatment. Aligners move your teeth into a straighter position, but it’s the retainers that keep them from shifting back.
In most cases, you’ll need to wear a retainer full time for a while after having your braces removed. So, you should make an effort to take good care of your retainer by cleaning it.
This post provides you with detailed information on the different types of retainers, how to clean plastic retainers, and other tips for proper care.
Let’s get started!
How to Clean Plastic Retainers
What are plastic retainers?
Plastic retainers are clear retainers that have been molded to fit comfortably on your teeth to protect your orthodontic treatment results. The retainer may be used after any treatment: clear aligners and ceramic or metal braces can all precede plastic retainers.
The plastic retainers are custom designed by your orthodontist, with a different set for your top and bottom teeth. You’re often required to wear the retainers at night for several years to prevent your teeth from shifting back.
Why do I need to clean my plastic retainers?
Cleaning your plastic retainers is a necessity: it’s good dental hygiene. When you first get your plastic retainers, you may have to wear them for the better part of the day for several years.
However, as time goes by, you’ll start wearing the retainers only at night or a few hours in the day. But regardless, it’s vital to keep them clean.
Contact with your teeth allows plaque, bacteria, and other food particles to get onto your plastic retainer. Failure to clean the retainers could result in a visible buildup that can’t be easily removed.
Without proper cleaning, your plastic retainers can get pretty disgusting, affecting their durability and ability to keep your teeth straight. Even worse, unclean retailers pose oral health risks to you.
So, how do you clean your plastic retainers? Read on for the best plastic retainer cleaning tips and more.
Cleaning retainers by type
Taking proper care of your retainer begins with knowing the type you have. Generally, there are three types of retainers, including:
- Hawley retainers: These are removable retainers molded out of acrylic to fit your mouth. They have a wire that holds the retainer in place and is easy to clean.
- Clear plastic retainers: As the name suggests, these retainers are almost invisible. They are removable, making them easy to clean.
- Bonded or fixed retainers: Also called permanent retainers, these are retainers attached to your lower front teeth used when your teeth have a high possibility of shifting. They can’t be removed for cleaning but can be washed while in the mouth.
How do I clean my plastic retainers?
Cleaning your plastic retainers is key to better breath, healthier teeth, and a more confident smile. On the other hand, failure to clean your retainers could negatively affect your dental health.
Here are several cleaning methods that will help keep your retainer looking fresh and as good as new:
Using baking soda
Baking soda is one of the safest and most effective ingredients for retainer cleaning. It has antibacterial properties to microorganisms found in the mouth, making it good at killing the bad bacteria.
Baking soda can also help fight bad breath and maintain a more alkaline pH. Even better, it may also whiten retainers that have yellowed or developed black or white spots.
Here is a step-by-step guide on cleaning your retainers using baking soda:
- Add about two tablespoons of baking soda to ¾ cup of warm water and stir in a clean stainless steel container. The mixture should be thick and sticky.
- Put your retainer in this solution and clean it with a soft toothbrush.
- Rinse the retainer with cold or warm water thoroughly before wearing it
You may leave your plastic retainer in the baking soda solution when you’re not wearing it- aid to keep it fresh.
Using white vinegar
White vinegar is a safe, potent, and gentle disinfectant that’ll remove the odors and residues in your plastic retainers. So, how do you go about it?
Create a mixture of white vinegar and water in the ratio of 1:1 in a small dish. Soak your plastic retainers in this mixture for about 20 minutes and use a soft brush to remove mineral deposits.
Rinse your plastic retainer using warm or cold water to remove the vinegar’s strong smell. It’s also recommended that you use a disposable dish to reduce the lingering odor of the white vinegar.
Using the dish soap
It may seem odd, but you can use dish soap to clean your plastic retainers. In fact, using mild soap is a great and safe way to keep your retainers clean and free from bacteria.
Use cold or lukewarm water, a cotton swab, a sponge, or a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean your retainer with dish soap. You can also create a mixture of water and dish soap and soak your retainer in it.
Rinse your retainer with cold or warm water to avoid tasting soap when you put it back in your mouth.
Using a denture cleaner
Cleaning your plastic retainer with denture cleaner from time to time is also safe. However, the solution can turn your clear plastic retainer yellow if used for a long period.
Rinse your retainer first, and allow it to soak in the denture cleaner solution for approximately 20 minutes. Then, gently scrub it with a soft toothbrush to remove the tartar and other materials on it.
Rinse the retainer with cool water to remove the denture cleaner taste.
Using Castille soap
Castile soap is a less toxic alternative to most cleaning products. You may buy a ready-made Castile soap in stores or make yours by mixing coconut soap and olive oil.
Here is a step-by-step guide on cleaning your retainers using Castile soap:
- Using a clean, dry stainless steel container, mix cool water with about 1-2 squirts of Castile soap.
- Dip your plastic retainers into the mixture and clean it using a soft toothbrush
- Leave the retainer soaked for about 2-3 minutes before scrubbing it again
- Rinse your retainers thoroughly before putting them back into your mouth or in distilled water.
Castile soap will clean your plastic retainers and add a clean smell and freshness to them.
Using a retainer cleaner
If you don’t have the desire or time to make your solution, you may opt for retainer cleaners sold in stores. Some retainer manufacturers make retainer cleaners for willing customers.
Make sure you follow the instructions and guidelines that come with the packaging. This will help keep your retainers clean and intact while preventing other oral hygiene issues.
An orthodontist may recommend a clear plastic retainer cleaner that meets your needs.
Tips for removable retainers’ care
Your retainers need proper care to serve you as needed and for a long time. Here are a few tips to keep your retainers clean, fresh, and functional:
Use water for cleaning on the go
Although water can’t clean your retainer on its own, it can prevent the overgrowth of bacteria. Drinking water will also combat a dry mouth and keep the retainer moist, preventing damage.
Always soak your retainer in distilled water when not wearing it. If the retainer is dirty and can’t be cleaned at the moment, soak it in a damp paper towel to protect it.
Although mouthwash has been recommended as a cleaning solution, soaking the plastic retainer mouthwash for long can damage it. Specifically, the alcohol content in the mouthwash can dry out the retainer, allowing bacteria to grow.
Avoid toothbrushes and toothpaste
Unless it’s a soft toothbrush, you should avoid cleaning your retainers with toothpaste and toothbrush. Most toothbrushes have strong bristles that can damage your retainers.
On the other hand, most toothpaste has abrasive particles that will certainly damage your retainers.
Avoid hot water
Hot water or heat, in general, can damage, melt, or warp the delicate plastic material used to make the retainer. Thus, to keep your retainer functional for a long time, keep it away from heat and use lukewarm water when cleaning it.
Do not use hydrogen peroxide
Although some experts recommend hydrogen peroxide for cleaning plastic retainers, never use it. The chemical causes free radical reactions, which are responsible for our aging.
Even worse, hydrogen peroxide will kill all types of bacteria in the mouth, including those we rely on for proper oral microbiome functioning. What’s more, hydrogen peroxide has been associated with oral cancers.
Clean your case regularly
Ensure you clean your plastic retainer case regularly. If possible, clean it once per day and one deep clean every week.
Gently scrub all surfaces in cool, soapy water, and then rinse it using clean, cold, or warm water. You may then store it in distilled water when you’re not wearing it.
The final thoughts
Cleaning your plastic retainers is just as important as brushing your teeth. You should clean them in cool, soapy water once per day to keep them fresh and healthy.
This article provides you with tips to help you clean your retainers and maintain healthy oral hygiene. You may also ask your dentist or orthodontist for specific cleaning and care instructions for your retainers.