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How to clean retainers – Top tips for a healthy smile

How to clean retainers

You may be wearing a retainer to straighten your smile or because you’re grinding your teeth at night. Many removable retainers are worn every day and/or night. That means they are in constant contact with your teeth where bacteria can quickly accumulate. As a consequence, they can become unclean very quickly. When you don’t clean your retainer, it can collect tartar and plaque after a while. So, after you brush your teeth, it’s important to also clean your retainer. There are different options so we’ll show you how to clean removable braces and fixed retainers. Always wash your hands before cleaning your teeth to prevent any bacteria reaching your mouth.

How to clean fixed retainers

There are different kinds of retainers and how you clean them will depend on the type you’re using. If you’ve got fixed retainers that are permanently attached to your teeth, the cleaning process is slightly different. Here’s what you need:

  • Floss
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss threader (optional)

Before you start cleaning your retainer, make sure you brush your teeth properly using a good toothbrush and toothpaste.

  1. Get your floss and floss threader (if you have one) and start by flossing between your teeth.
  2. Start with the bottom front teeth. 
  3. A good technique is to hold the ends of the floss and go up and down between your teeth as you pull along the floss. 
  4. The floss should go between the gum line. 
  5. Repeat these steps for each tooth. 

How to clean retainers that are removable

Not sure how to get started with how to clean night retainers? There are usually two types of removable retainers – acrylic ones (also called Hawley retainers) and clear plastic ones. To clean a removable retainer, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the retainer from your mouth and clean it immediately. This ensures that any bacteria and tartar doesn’t dry and harden. 
  2. Brush the retainer with a little toothpaste and warm water using a toothbrush.
  3. You can use a cotton swab to gently rub away more difficult spots.
  4. For fast and efficient cleaning, you can also soak the retainer in a special retainer cleaner. Your dentist will be able to advise on a good option.
  5. If you’re wearing your retainers throughout the day, wash them and give them a good scrub after each meal. 

Tips and tricks to keep your retainer in good shape

Here’s how to clean retainers so that these will continue to stay fresh and work effectively.

  1. Get a dedicated retainer toothbrush. It’s best to have a toothbrush you only use to clean your retainer rather than sharing the one you use to brush your teeth every day. 
  2. Don’t boil it or use bleach as these can cause your retainer to warp or be destroyed. According to the American Dental Association, only use effervescent cleansers or products intended to clean orthodontic appliances.
  3. Store your retainer in a safe plastic case or wrap it in a towel to avoid it from breaking. 
  4. To remove yellow stains from your retainer, use baking soda to scrub at the stains and then rinse with warm water. 
  5. To remove crusty spots, bath it in a mixture of white vinegar and warm water (1:1). You can also use a store-bought retainer cleaner for this purpose.