Why cleaning and caring for a retainer is important

Are you close to getting those braces off? Congrats, we are super excited for you! It’s been a journey to transform your smile, and the results make all the effort well worth it. But your orthodontic journey isn’t over yet just because your mouth is brace-free! The next step after getting your braces removed is to start wearing and caring for your retainer. 

Dr. McGrory has been treating orthodontic patients in Lake Jackson for years and he is an expert at selecting the perfect retainer style and care routine for his patients. Regardless of which kind of retainer he recommends, retainer hygiene equals oral hygiene and we are here to help you keep your teeth in tip-top shape!

Why are clean retainers important?

A retainer is a device that is either removable or fixed onto your teeth which will help maintain straight teeth and an aligned jaw into the future. It doesn’t matter if you are getting your braces off as a child, teen, or adult, Dr. McGrory will always recommend that his patients continue wearing a retainer.

When you first get your braces removed, you’ll often hear how important it is to wear your retainer in order to keep your teeth straight. And it’s true! After investing so much time, energy, and money into your updated smile, you will want to ensure that your teeth stay straight and healthy for many years to come. Your retainer is one of the best ways to make that happen.

But what you might not hear as often is just how important it is to keep your retainer clean. Our mouths contain naturally occurring bacteria that feed on food particles and can turn into plaque or tartar when left alone. By keeping your retainer sparkling clean, you can prevent plaque from growing on your retainer and teeth and can help keep bad bacteria from growing in your mouth that might cause infections or other problems. 

Another perk to caring for your retainer is that it can help it last longer! Regardless of the retainer type, taking great care through cleaning, brushing, and soaking your retainer means that you can often continue wearing the same retainer for many years. This will save you time, energy, and money in the long run. 

How to clean your retainer

The cleaning method you use for your retainer will depend on the type of retainer that you have. Let’s break down our best tips for cleaning each kind of retainer. 

Fixed retainer

A fixed retainer is made of a wire that is bonded onto your teeth using a nontoxic dental cement. These wires are most often placed on the inside of the teeth so they are invisible to others but help maintain the correct shape of the bite. 

Cleaning starts with your regular twice-daily brushing. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, give extra care to brush up, down, and around the wire and bonding to remove the food particles that can get trapped there causing plaque and bacteria to grow. After brushing, at least once a day you should floss all of your teeth, including those with the fixed retainer. It’s important to use a floss threader like the kind used when you had braces, to get under the wire and clean out remaining plaque and particles. 

Essix retainer

An Essix retainer works similarly to Invisalign® retainers. They are made entirely out of clear plastic and molded to fit perfectly over your pearly whites. Cleaning and caring for your Essix retainer is very similar to the Hawley retainer, with the biggest difference being hard-to-reach ridges inside of the mold. 

Take great care to give your Essix retainers a thorough but gentle scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush, along with alcohol-free mouthwash or hand soap just like the Hawley retainer. If you notice buildup, you can soak your retainer in a denture solution or other solution made specifically for retainers as needed.

Hawley retainer

The Hawley retainer was made of acrylic and metal and fit into the roof or bottom of your mouth, with wires fitting around your teeth. These are the original style of retainer and are increasingly less common as newer models take their place more and more these days. The best way to care for your Hawley retainer is to rinse it with lukewarm water immediately when you take it out. Remember: never use hot water on your retainer as it can warp the material and damage it! 

After rinsing, grab a toothbrush that is designated specifically for your retainer and brush the retainer with either an alcohol-free mouthwash or hand soap. The goal is to gently kill bacteria without damaging the retainer. Just be sure to rinse the retainer well afterward to remove any soapy residue. Another reminder: never use toothpaste to scrub your retainer! Toothpaste often contains small abrasive properties that are great for cleaning teeth but can damage your retainer. 

If you notice white buildup on your retainer, that’s perfectly normal and can come from plaque or buildup from calcium and other minerals in your saliva. In that case, you can soak your Hawley retainer in a denture solution like Polident, and finish up with another quick scrub with your toothbrush to remove debris. 

Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is ImportantLake Jackson Orthodontics can keep you on track!

Whether you’ve been rocking your retainer for a few weeks or a few years, Lake Jackson Orthodontics is ready to help keep you and your teeth on track! Reach out to our office any time during business hours if you need to ask a question or schedule a free consultation appointment to help with your retainer. If your retainer has been broken, lost, or isn’t fitting right, be sure to give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.