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How to Clean and Care for Your Retainer

by Dr. Amer Hussain, on Oct 21, 2019 3:00:00 PM

You got your braces off! Congratulations! Now to maintain that new straight smile you already know you have to wear your retainer, but the other part to having a retainer is maintaining and cleaning it. 

Since your retainer pretty much lives in your mouth, it is exposed to all the bacteria, plaque and leftover food particles that hang around in your mouth. You should be cleaning your retainer everyday for hygienic reasons but it’s also important to check with your orthodontist about how your specific retainer should be cleaned. 

Signs your retainer needs to be cleaned
Just before we get into the nitty gritty of how to clean and properly care for your retainer, you need to be able to recognize when you need to clean your retainer. We get life happens and people can forget, but if your retainer is exhibiting any of the following signs please clean your retainer right away. 

Signs to look out for: 

  • If your retainer smells or tastes bad
  • If you can see a “film” on your retainer
  • If your retainer begins looking cloudy
  • If it’s been more than a week since you last remember cleaning it 
  • If there is “white spots”* on your retainer

White spots on your retainer could mean that your have a mineral build up (tartar) or plaque that causes cavities in teeth or a combination of the two.  

If you see any of these signs, it would be best to give your retainer a through cleaning to help keep its’ integrity as well get rid of any plaque and bacteria that’s building up. 

What can I clean my retainer with? 

Now before you can clean your retainer it’s important to know what type of retainer you have, there are three main types of retainers: Hawley, clear and fixed. 

Hawley retainers
These retainers are made from an acrylic mould in order to be custom built for your mouth. Hawley retainers are a combination of plastic and metal. These have a wire that helps hold the retainer in place, hawley retainers are removable. 

Clear Retainers
Clear retainers are ones that go over your teeth and are virtually invisible. They can go by many names such as Exxic, Vivera and more. Clear retainers are easy to remove but are also susceptible to damage if not handled carefully. 

Fixed or bonded retainers
Fixed retainers are permanently bonded to the lingual side of your teeth (the backs of your teeth). This retainer doesn’t come off and can be in place for months or years depending on your orthodontists plan. 

What to clean your retainer with

For Hawley and clear retainers
It’s important to note, you should be cleaning your retainer as soon as you remove it from your mouth. 

  1. Clean your retainer as soon as you remove it from your mouth while it’s still wet. This will help clean off any debris that is left on your retainer
  2. Gently brush your retainer with a soft-bristle toothbrush 
  3. For a deeper clean, soak your retainer in lukewarm water (the water should just be warm to the touch) with a mild dish soap as your gently brush away any remaining debris and plaque
  4. If your orthodontist recommends soaking your retainer in denture or retainer cleaner, mix one tablet with one cup of luke-warm water. 

It is important to NEVER use hot water on your retainer. This can damage and warp the retainer and may damage it enough to the point where you’ll have to replace it. 

For fixed or bonded retainers

  1. Grab a piece of floss or use a floss threader to thread the floss between your two front lower teeth
  2. Hold one end of the floss in one hand and the threader in the other 
  3. Carefully get the floss under your retainer wire, move it gently up and down between your teeth all the way to your gum line. 
  4. Slide the floss sideways to the next area your want to clean, pull down until it’s between your teeth. Repeat this process with each tooth. 

Things to avoid

Your retainer should be treated like your best friend, it needs to be taken care of in order to stick around and keep your new smile straight and healthy. 

Keep your retainer away from: 

  • Hot water 
  • Dishwashers 
  • Microwaves 
  • Direct sunlight for extended periods of time

Basically, keep your retainer away from anything hot. 

In conclusion…
Having a clean retainer is absolutely essential to keeping your new smile straight and healthy. Cleaning your retainer is just as important as brushing your teeth. Not taking care or cleaning your retainer can have serious effects on your teeth and health. 


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