Most people know it’s essential to brush their teeth at least twice a day and to floss once a day. They wouldn’t dream of missing out on this regular routine. However, people often have a different attitude towards wearing retainers and may go days without cleaning them properly. When you wear a retainer, the same bacteria that grow over your teeth and gums can grow on your retainer.
It is not good if you fail to clean your retainer properly. And if you simply place it back into your nicely brushed and flossed mouth, you are just replacing many of the plaque bacteria you have just removed. When you got your retainer, it’s highly likely that your dentist gave you some instructions on how to keep it clean. If you’re not sure then the most commonly asked questions are listed below as well as some helpful tips on how to keep your retainer clean and fresh.
How Often Should You Clean Your Retainer?
You should clean your retainer every time you brush your teeth and you should deep clean it at least once a week. Signs that your retainer needs cleaning include noticing it smells or tastes unpleasant or noticing a film that has built up over the surface of the retainer. This also includes the retainer looks cloudy or has developed white spots. These white spots could be a buildup of tartar or calculus.
Tartar is a mineral buildup that occurs when plaque bacteria are not regularly removed. If you fail to clean your retainer for a couple of days, plaque bacteria can soon harden into tartar. Another indication that you’re not cleaning your retainer frequently enough is if it keeps on cracking or breaking. A buildup of bacteria can damage your retainer just as easily as it can damage your teeth.
I’ve Developed Tooth Sensitivity Should I Be Concerned?
If you’ve recently developed tooth sensitivity or other dental problems, or if you’ve suddenly begun to develop cavities then you could have a problem with your retainer. When this occurs, it’s worth talking to your dentist or orthodontist about how to resolve this problem and they will want to check the appliance fits correctly. An incorrectly fitting retainer can trap plaque bacteria more easily.
How to Keep Your Retainer Clean
Whenever you brush your teeth get into the habit of brushing your retainer at the same time. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush that will not harm your retainer and a non-whitening toothpaste that isn’t abrasive. Afterwards, thoroughly rinse the retainer before replacing it. If you wish, you can clean your retainer with denture cleaner but just be aware that over time denture cleaner can discolor a retainer and may turn it yellow.
If you do want to use a denture cleaner, rinse your retainer and then soak it in denture cleaning solution for about 20 minutes. Afterwards carefully scrub the retainer with a soft toothbrush. It’s essential to rinse a retainer thoroughly after soaking it in denture cleaner as otherwise, you could notice it leaves behind an unpleasant taste.
Using Proprietary Retainer Cleaners
You can buy proprietary retainer cleaners and these are ideal if you want a simple option for keeping your retainer clean and fresh. If you choose to use a proprietary cleaner, make sure you follow the directions thoroughly. Some types of cleaners require overnight soaking or must be used in an ultrasonic cleaning machine. Check that your cleaner can be used on your type of retainer.
Check that it is suitable for your dental health as some may not be ideal for people with gum disease or who have tooth sensitivity. Ideally, ask your dentist or orthodontist for their recommendations.
Is it Safe to Use Baking Soda on a Retainer?
Baking soda is a good natural disinfectant that can help control bacterial levels and you might find it useful if your retainer has become yellowed. Using baking soda to clean it can help to re-whiten it. To use it properly, create a paste made from half baking soda and half water and then gently scrub your retainer with this mixture using a soft toothbrush. Rinse off any residue.
What about Using Vinegar to Clean a Retainer?
White vinegar is very effective at removing odors and residues, gently disinfecting a retainer. To use, create a solution of half white vinegar and half lukewarm water and soak the retainer for approximately 20 minutes. If your retainer has become covered in tartar, it should now be possible to gently scrub it clean. After rinsing your retainer with cold water, soak it for another 20 minutes.
Using Castile Soap to Clean a Retainer
You can buy Castile soap or if you prefer, make your own using coconut soap and olive oil. To clean a retainer using Castile soap, add a small amount to warm water, dip your retainer in the solution and scrub gently with a toothbrush. If you wish, you can leave your retainer to soak for a few minutes before brushing it again. Rinse thoroughly with cool water before putting it back in your mouth.
Using mouthwash to clean a retainer is not a great solution but if you have nothing else available then it will do to help keep it fresh. However, using mouthwash regularly to clean a retainer will not get it thoroughly clean. If you must use mouthwash, use a brand that is alcohol-free and soak your retainer for a few minutes before brushing gently with a soft toothbrush and rinsing with cold water.
If you are ever unsure about how to clean your retainer then ask your dentist or hygienist for more advice. They can show you the best way to keep it thoroughly clean and can talk to you about the best cleaning solutions to suit your needs. If you ever break your retainer then always return to your dentist to have it professionally mended.
Trying to mend it yourself could damage it irreparably at worst, and at the very best is likely to mean it will be uncomfortable and ill-fitting to wear. When not wearing your retainer, make sure you soak it in distilled water. Allowing a retainer to dry out and increases the risk of damage because it will gradually become more brittle.
For more on retainers and dental health visit: https://www.broadwayfamilydentalpc.com/orthodontic-services/retainers/
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