How do I clean my retainer?

by | Jan 15, 2021 | Orthodontic Treatments, Retainers | 0 comments

4 min reading time

In order to prevent any relapse, the teeth shifting back to where they were pre-treatment, patients must wear their orthodontic retainer religiously. Patients always ask how long they need to wear their retainers for after they have their braces removed and the answer to that question is, forever! 

Will my retainer get dirty?

It is important to know that retainers are life-long, and they will collect bacteria, get dirty, and wear out with every use just like contact lenses or shoes that are worn daily. Bacteria is always present in the mouth, regardless of the number of times a person brushes or flosses their teeth. Doctors and scientists like to refer to bacteria as your “normal flora” because it is the building block of plaque. You will find a bacterial plaque on the surface of your retainer. This plaque colonizes on your retainer just like in your mouth and on your teeth, this causes the retainer to have a funky taste, smell, or look to it. Lastly, for the patients that generally form tartar or calculus in their mouth should also find white calcium deposits on their retainers. 

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

The key to a clean retainer is preventing it from getting dirty in the first place. Knowing there are bacteria, plaque, and tartar that attach themselves to your retainer every time it is in your mouth is the first step. It is critical to clean your retainer immediately after removing it from your mouth while it is still wet. Letting debris harden on your retainer will complicate its removal. Even if you can’t see anything on your retainer, you may notice that it has developed an odor over time. This is most often due to invisible plaque. Although brushing your retainer can remove bacteria, there are areas that are not easily accessible on certain designs. For this reason, I recommend that patients soak their retainer in some form of denture or retainer cleaner daily. Common trade names include Efferdent and Polident, but in my experience, the brand isn’t important. What is important is that it is antibacterial. After removing your retainer from your mouth, drop it into a cup of lukewarm water with one of the “fizzing” tablets, and your retainer will taste and smell better the next time you put it in.


What do I use to clean my retainer?

If you notice visible plaque or debris on your retainer, you should remove it with a soft brush (like a toothbrush, denture brush, vegetable brush, etc.). Use only water or mild dish soap and never use abrasives (like toothpaste) or the finish will become scratched. If you wear clear plastic retainers, you may need to use a cotton swab (“Q-Tip”) to clean down into the deepest parts. Again, avoid using any cleaning agent which might scratch your retainer.

Some deposits on your retainer may need professional help

If you notice calcium deposits on your retainer that do not come off with brushing or denture cleaner, you may need to enlist the help of your orthodontist. There are tartar removing solutions that he can use to professionally clean your retainer in his office. If the calcium has become incorporated into the plastic over time however, even he may not be able to get it off. In that case, you may have to live with a discolored retainer or buy a new one. Discoloration won’t affect its function.

Contact Loudoun Orthodontics if you think removable retainers are the solution to your dental woes. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of removable retainers or have questions about the process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303 or send us a message through our contact us page to connect with our friendly staff today to book a complimentary orthodontic consultation! Our office, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly serves not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Ashburn, Lansdowne, or Sterling, and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in Virginia, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!