Here’s how to clean retainers and keep your teeth from accumulating plaque. Cleaning your orthodontic device is just as important as wearing it correctly. A retainer will hold your teeth in position after an orthodontic treatment to keep them from shifting back to their previous position. But another secret to having the perfect smile is to avoid tooth decay at all cost. In this article, we will talk about the many different ways you can care for your appliance and how to clean retainers effectively.

how to clean retainers with a toothbrush

How to Clean Retainers – 7 Effective Methods

1. Hand soap and a toothbrush

Using hand soap and a toothbrush is one of the best ways to clean retainers or aligners. It’s advised you do it at least once a day. However, we recommend cleaning your appliance after each main meal. Here’s how you do it. Take out your retainer and put some liquid hand soap on a toothbrush. The best one is the denture toothbrush because it has stiff bristles that can get rid of white plaque. Brush your retainer thoroughly, then rinse it with warm water. While you can use any soap you wish, we advise on using one containing an antibacterial agent. This way, you can also eliminate any smell.

Here’s another thing you should consider. It’s important to keep your retainer in a retainer case with the lid open. This way, you can prevent damp and smell. And while it may sound too obvious, we must mention that retainers should only be stored clean, after getting rid of plaque buildup. If you do not have the time to clean your retainer, place it in a cup with distilled water and brush it later.

If you don’t store a dirty retainer in distilled water, then it will dry out with a white biofilm. This, as you would imagine, will harden and it will be even more difficult to get rid of the white calculus.

While most people use toothpaste for retainer cleaning, it’s not exactly the best way to go about it. Toothpaste contains about 20 percent abrasives. These chemicals are used to polish the teeth. The teeth are covered with enamel, the hardest substance in the body. Your retainer, however, is much softer. Consequently, you risk scratching the material it is made of, thus creating a perfect ground for bacteria buildup.

2. Baking soda and a toothbrush

Here’s how to clean retainers with an ingredient you surely have stored somewhere in your kitchen. Baking soda is an excellent cleaning agent. You can pretty much clean everything with it, and it’s so cheap and easy to find. It is also the safest way to go about it, and you may discover that it’s even better than retainer cleansers.

Baking soda can increase the pH in our mouth in a natural way. It keeps the bacteria away, preventing both tooth decay and retainer problems. If you have a retainer, you may have noticed that after a while, it starts to smell bad. Luckily, you can use baking soda for retainer cleaning and as an effective deodorizer. Mix baking soda with a bit of water until you get a paste of a toothpaste consistency. Then apply the paste onto a toothbrush and scrub the retainer. Rinse it off with warm water.

baking soda in a white bowl

3. Vinegar

If you’re all about homemade solutions, then you can make your own vinegar mix. You can use the same 5% distilled white vinegar that you usually use for cooking. Just as baking soda, vinegar is also an antibacterial agent. The only difference is vinegar does a better job at removing plaque buildup.

Mix one part of vinegar to three parts of warm water, then soak the retainer for about 20 minutes. This mixture will dissolve the white plaque but use it wisely. This is not something you can do on a regular basis because vinegar can degrade the plastic and change the color of your appliance.

Now, if the buildup is old, you must mix one part of vinegar to one part of water and let the appliance soak overnight. In the morning, brush off the retainer with a stiff toothbrush, and it should be all clean. Vinegar can get rid of most calculus, but you should still brush your retainer daily with a lighter solution to prevent any buildup.

4. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a potent oxidizing agent, commonly used as a bleach, ripening agent, and topical anti-infective. It is also a natural way to clean your retainer or aligner because it can kill the bacteria on it. Let’s see how to clean retainers using hydrogen peroxide. Take a small bowl, place your appliance in it, then pour the peroxide until the retainer is fully submerged. You’ll most likely hear a fizzle. Don’t worry; it’s merely killing the nasty germs on the retainer. Let it soak for about one minute before rinsing it with water.

This method is quite effective, but it can leave your retainer smelling bad. As a result, it would be best if you soaked the appliance in mouthwash for a couple of minutes before placing it back into your mouth.

5. Mouthwash

You may have heard that cleaning the retainer with mouthwash is a bad idea. We agree, but only to some extent. Mouthwash contains alcohol, which can damage the material of the appliance. However, using this method once in a while will not harm your retainer. You can use Listerine, as it’s excellent at killing the germs on any orthodontic device.

Mix equal parts of mouthwash and water. Soak your retainer in this solution for about half an hour. Bear in mind that if your appliance has hard buildup on it, this method will not help you get rid of calculus.

woman pouring mouthwash in a cup

6. Ultrasonic cleaner

Ultrasonic cleaners are great at cleaning many objects, including watches, jewelry, coins, and, of course, dental appliances. This device can clean your retainer by vibrating to shake off any buildup. The good news is, you can buy one at an affordable price.

To clean your retainer, you must place it in the ultrasonic cleaner’s chamber with a solvent. You can use cleaning tablets that you can find at any drug store. They have antibacterial, cleaning, and deodorizing agents that can get rid of calculus and plaque while also eliminating bad smells.

7. Retainer cleaner

For people who don’t have the time to make their own solution, a retainer cleaner may be a good option. Follow the directions on the packaging. Some types require overnight soaking or the use of a sonic cleaning machine. Others shouldn’t be used on some types of retainers, or for people with gum disease or sensitive teeth. An orthodontist can recommend a retainer cleaner that will meet your needs.

Other Tips on How to Take Care of Retainers

Now that you know how to clean retainers, you must also learn how to keep them both clean and safe from damage.

  • Keep the appliance moist. When it’s not in your mouth, do leave it submerged in distilled water. It’s advised you do so because dry retainers allow for tartar to form.
  • Don’t oversoak the retainer in harsh cleaning solutions or denture cleaner. Don’t leave your appliance in your mixture of choice for longer than you should. Acrylic and metallic retainers are particularly more prone to damage. Oversoaking may cause the material to corrode over time.
  • Do not boil the retainer. The first thing to remember is don’t boil plastic retainers or Invisalign trays. It can cause damage. Many people boil their appliance to get rid of the bacteria on it. While it can help with that, you will damage the appliance to the point that you may even have to buy a new one. As a matter of fact, don’t even use hot water to clean it. Always use warm water to rinse your retainer.
  • Don’t use bleach. This substance can damage the plastic on some retainers and fade the colors. Furthermore, your mouth will end up smelling of bleach. It is extremely hard to remove the smell of this solution.
  • Don’t leave it on a nightstand. Many people take out their retainers when going to bed and leave it on the nightstand to dry out. This is wrong because it may fall and break and, secondly, it should never be left out of its case or the glass of distilled water.
  • Designate a toothbrush just for cleaning your retainer. Since you might be using soap to clean your appliance, then you won’t want to use the same toothbrush you clean your teeth with. Purchase one just for your retainer.
  • Don’t wear your retainer for a whole day. Take out your dentures during the night, storing them accordingly. One of the consequences of prolonged retainer use is oral If you notice an unpleasant smell that does not go away as much as you try to clean both your teeth and retainer, then contact your dentist.
  • Have your dentist look at them. If your dentures have a lot of buildup on them and you simply cannot clean it yourself, then bring them to the dentist. They have many tools that can make your retainer look brand new.
  • Buy a non-porous retainer. If you can choose the material yourself, then go for the least porous one. It is easier to clean and it will not accumulate that much plaque.
  • Use castile soap for a “clean” smell. You can add two squirts of castile soap to the distilled water you keep your retainer in.

Types of Retainers

There are three basic types of retainers to suit any preference in style and appearance.

1. Permanent Retainers

Also known as fixed retainers, bonded wire retainers, or lingual retainer wire, this type of retainer is considered permanent. While an orthodontist can remove them, a patient cannot. Bonded to the back of the teeth, permanent retainers are usually placed on the upper four front teeth and/or lower six front teeth. They hold teeth firmly in place to prevent them from reverting to their previous positions.

2. Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are probably the most recognized type of retainer. Also known as wire retainers, they have been around for decades. Custom-fitted to the wearer’s mouth, they are made from molded acrylic which covers the roof of the mouth, and wire that holds teeth into position. Hawley retainers can be adjusted as needed and are removable.

3. Clear Retainers

Also known as Essix retainers, this type of retainers are made from clear plastic and are almost invisible. They’ve become increasingly popular in recent years. They are made from clear plastic and are custom-fitted to the patient’s mouth. Clear retainers are not as durable as other types of retainers but can be removed as needed.

What’s the difference between Essix retainers and Invisalign aligners? Invisalign is an alternative to braces that move teeth using aligners (clear trays). A retainer keeps teeth in the same position once orthodontic treatment has been completed. Simply put, clear retainers hold teeth into place, whereas Invisalign aligners move teeth.

How to Clean Invisalign Retainers

Invisalign retainers require proper care to keep them clean and free of bacteria. When you remove them, rinse with cool water to prevent plaque buildup. Brush Invisalign retainers with a soft toothbrush and lukewarm water. Don’t brush too hard. It can cause damage and create visible etchings.

Final Thoughts on How to Clean Retainers

Your retainer plays an important function. Consequently, caring for it the best way possible is crucial. Get the most out of your dental appliances by remembering how to clean retainers and how to keep them safe from damage.