When getting your braces removed or having other dental care, it may be necessary to wear a retainer at night or even throughout the day. When you have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on dental and orthodontia care, you do not want your investment to go to waste. This is why retainers are so critical for protecting the position of your teeth.
A drawback of retainers is that they quickly accumulate plaque, tartar, and bacteria. Your retainer gathers these germs throughout the day and night, so it is important to clean the device everyday just like your teeth.
If you are getting used to your new retainer, and need a few tips for keeping it safe and clean, read on. Otherwise, make an appointment with a dentist to get all your questions answered.
Signs That Your Retainer Needs a Cleaning
There are a few signs to look out for that indicate your retainer needs cleaning.
If your retainer:
- Smells or tastes bad
- Is coated in a film
- Looks cloudy
- Has not been cleaned for more than a week
- There are white spots on the device
- Then it definitely needs a good clean.
If your retainer is breaking or cracking, this could also be a sign your device needs maintenance. Here are 8 tips you can count when cleaning your retainer weekly.
1) Identify The Type of Retainer
Retainers are definitely not a one size fits all. If you know about the type of retainer you have and how it works, then you can find out how to clean your device properly.
- Hawley retainers, which are molded from acrylic to fit your mouth perfectly. Hawley retainers have a wire that goes across the front of your teeth, yet they are removable devices. Removable retainers are far easier to clean than permanent ones.
- Clear plastic retainers, whether they are called Essix, Vivera, or simply clear aligners, slip over your teeth and are virtually invisible. However, clear aligners are much less durable than Hawley retainers, so you will have to replace them more often.
- Bonded retainers, also called permanent retainers, are attached to the lower front teeth. If your teeth are at a high risk of shifting, then permanent retainers are a great solution. You cannot remove these devices by yourself, and they are often attached for months or even years. Since this type is constantly in your mouth, it is critical to take special care of your retainer.
2) Avoid Heat Always
When you expose your retainer to high heat, this can warp your device and ruin it. Remember to always keep your devices away from:
- Boiling water
- Washers and dryers
- Hot parts of your car, like the dashboard
When cleaning, retainers should be placed in lukewarm water rather than cold or hot water.
3) Skip Chemicals
To have a retainer that is squeaky-clean, you do not necessarily have to use harsh chemicals. Simply brushing your retainer regularly removes the amount of bacteria on your devices.
However, cleaning tablets can be more effective for removing stubborn bacteria, like streptococcus. Streptococcus causes strep throat, an infection of the throat and tonsils. Because of this, you want to make sure to clean your bacteria thoroughly once in a while to reduce the chances of getting sick.
4) Don’t Soak for Too Long
If you are someone that uses cleaning tablets for retainers, then remember not to soak your Hawley retainer for too long. If you do, this can corrode the metal parts of the retainer. Always soak the device for as long as the tablets specify and not longer.
If you simply want to improve the smell of your retainer and kill some bacteria, then a mouthwash soak with equal parts mouthwash and lukewarm water will do the trick.
However, if the mouthwash you use contains alcohol, only do this soak occasionally. The alcohol present in mouthwash can sometimes harm the plastic of the retainer.
5) Clean the Case
While you are at work or school all day long, your retainer is sitting in the same dirty case. This is why it is important to clean the case regularly.
Try to clean it once a day before putting your retainer away. To clean, scrub the surfaces of the case with warm, soapy water, then rinse and dry.
6) Keep Away From Harm
An easy way to lose a retainer is to keep it in the reach of pets or babies. Keep your retainer (and the case) away from pets so that it is not a choking hazard for them. Always be mindful of where you are placing your retainer while eating. If you put your device on a napkin, it can easily be mistaken for trash and get thrown away.
7) Replace as Needed
Retainers are like shoes or even contact lenses: they should be replaced occasionally because of typical wear and tear. Eventually, your retainer may need to be replaced. While clear retainers may only last six months to a year because they are less durable, Hawley retainers can last five to ten years if properly cared for.
8) When in Doubt, Ask the Dentist
Cleaning your retainer everyday is just as critical as brushing your teeth. Always clean your retainer in lukewarm water and dish soap to keep it healthy. Brushing your retainer after every meal can help to eliminate bacteria as well. When it comes to specific care instructions for your retainer, do not hesitate to contact your specialist.
If you notice your retainer is not fitting as well as it used to, it is really dirty, or looks worn out, then visit your dentist. Wear and tear on your device is normal, but a worn out retainer won’t do its job. Taking proper care of it is critical to prevent illnesses and ensure your device lasts a long time. A dentist can get you a brand new retainer that is much cleaner and comfortable to wear.