Proper retainer maintenance can be a pain as it takes some effort to keep it clean. However, cleaning your retainer keeps your teeth healthier by reducing the bacteria in your mouth. You need your retainer to help keep your teeth from shifting following orthodontic treatment.
If you don’t take good care of your retainer, you can increase your risk for tooth decay. It also starts to taste and smell pretty bad. If you find you suffer from tooth sensitivity, tooth pain, or gum issues, it could be because you’re not looking after your retainer properly.
While cleaning your retainer adds more steps to your oral health regime, it’s worth the effort. A clean retainer helps you avoid adding to the bacteria already in your mouth and on your teeth. Here are our tips and tricks to help keep your retainer clean:
Brush Your Teeth, Brush Your Retainer
The easiest way to keep your retainer clean is to brush your retainer whenever you brush your teeth. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush the entire surface of your retainer gently, then rinse it thoroughly before popping it into your mouth. This will make it taste better too. Don’t brush your retainer with whitening toothpaste as that can cause damage.
Drink More Water
Make sure you’re drinking lots of water to help rinse away bacteria in your mouth. Dry mouths are a haven for bacteria, so keeping well-hydrated is a great and easy way to reduce bacteria and avoid tooth decay.
Rinse Your Mouth
It’s easy for your retainer to start to feel dry and kind of gritty throughout the day. Just swish some water around in your mouth and spit it out to help keep your mouth moist. As well, remove anything that might be caught in your teeth or retainer.
Remove Your Retainer When Drinking
Soda, sugary drinks, and warm beverages can damage your retainer, not to mention damage to your oral health. If you must drink something other than water, take your retainer out. Place it in water or a damp paper towel or napkin to keep it moist and clean.
Remove Your Retainer When Eating
To avoid getting food caught in your retainer or between your teeth, always remove your retainer when eating. You can also rinse your mouth out with water before popping it back in your mouth.
Try a Denture Cleaner
Denture cleaners can be used for a more thorough cleaning, but not every day. They are harsher than toothpaste, so use it no more than once a month to avoid discolouring your retainer.
Rinse your retainer with water and then soak it for 20 minutes or so. Then, give it a gentle scrub with your soft bristle toothbrush. Sometimes denture cleaners can leave a funny taste on your retainer. If so, just rinse it again or use a bit of toothpaste to remove the residue.
Brush with Baking soda
Baking soda is a great natural cleaner that will disinfect safely. If you find your retainer has yellowed, this is the safest and most effective way to help remove discolouration without the need for harsh chemicals. It also helps control bacteria and keep the pH levels in your mouth balanced.
Just add a bit of water to a small amount of baking soda to create a paste, then use a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean your retainer. Rinse it thoroughly to remove any residue.
White Vinegar Rinse
White vinegar is another natural cleanser that will help remove residue and reduce odours. Use a simple mix of half vinegar and half warm water, and then soak your retainer for about 20 minutes.
If there are signs of grit or build-up, use your toothbrush to scrub it away and then do another 20-minute soak. This isn’t for everyone, as you might not like the vinegar smell. You should also rinse it well to remove the taste and smell, which can be quite strong.
Warm Water and Castile Soap
Castile soap is made with olive oil and coconut soap and can be found in most drug stores. Add it to a small amount of warm water and clean your retainer in the soapy water with your toothbrush. Let it soak for a few minutes, and then rinse it with cool water.
This would be the least advised route, but it works in a pinch. A few minutes soaked in mouthwash can help remove bacteria but can be too severe when used too often. In a pinch, it makes a great occasional option; for example, if you sleepover at someone’s home and you don’t have anything else to use. Make sure it is non-alcohol and that you rinse their retainer well with water.
You’re probably thinking, “Why wasn’t this at the top of the list?” While retainer cleaners are made specifically for retainers, they aren’t ideal for all types of retainers. They can also be irritating if you have sensitive teeth or gum disease. Some even need a sonic cleaning machine or have to be used overnight, which is when you need your retainer.
All in all, they aren’t the greatest solution, but they are affordable and available if you decide you want to try them. Just make sure you follow the instructions and that they are compatible with your specific kind of retainer.
Signs Your Retainer Needs Cleaning
If you’ve been going along thinking your retainer is clean, there are some signs you should ramp up your cleaning method, including:
- Bad taste
- Foul smell
- A yucky film
- A cloudy look
- White spots
You’ll probably know your retainer needs cleaning due to the taste and smell. It just makes sense to practice proper retainer maintenance to keep it fresh!
What are the white spots on my retainer?
Many people can get a mineral build-up on their retainer that appears as white spots. This is a bad thing as that means plaque and tartar — the same stuff that causes cavities — is building up on your retainer.
Make sure you try one of the more thorough cleanings such as baking soda or denture cleaner if you do see white spots. If that doesn’t work, speak to our team at Guelph Family Dentistry about retainer maintenance.
Keeping your retainer clean is important not only for your oral health but also for your wallet. If you don’t take care of your retainer, it can break or crack, which can get expensive. Proper retainer maintenance keeps your mouth healthy and also helps your retainer last longer.
For more tips and tricks on keeping your retainer clean, call Guelph Family Dentistry at 888-588-1691 or contact us here.