Tips to Clean Your Retainer

Here at Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we provide children of all ages with quality dental care in a positive, gentle, and caring environment. From becoming your first pediatric dentist, to a childhood tooth extraction, to braces and teeth extraction, we want to set your child up for a healthy beautiful smile. For many children, this means getting braces in their teen years. Once the braces are removed, they will be given a retainer to help maintain their new smile. Cleaning the retainer is vital to ensuring a healthy mouth. Here are a few tips for cleaning various types of them.

Types of Retainers

Today’s dentists and orthodontists may use a variety of different retainers for their patients. Depending on what your doctor recommends, you may have a Hawley, Essix, or permanent retainer. A Hawley retainer is the more traditional retainer that sits in the roof of your mouth. An Essix retainer is a clear plastic one that is molded to your teeth that you can take in and out of your mouth. A permanent retainer is a small silver bar that is glued to the back of your teeth, usually just in the front sections.

A permanent retainer can be cleaned just as you brush the rest of your teeth. Flossing is important, though a bit more difficult. Your dentist or orthodontist can show you the best technique to thread the floss between your retainer and teeth. The following cleaning tips apply to both Hawley and Essix retainers, since they are removable.

1. Don’t Use Heat

Although excellent at cleaning plates and silverware, the dishwasher is not the place for your retainer. The high heat can melt the plastic, causing you to need a replacement. Likewise, you shouldn’t put your retainer in boiling water, microwaves, the clothes washer or dryer, or on the dashboard of your car in direct sunlight. Additionally, always be sure to use lukewarm water when cleaning your retainer.

2. Avoid Chemicals

It is not always necessary to use harsh chemicals to clean your retainer. In fact, one study found that chemical cleaning tablets didn’t reduce bacteria any more than a simple brushing did. However, the tablets can be helpful at removing “cocci” bacteria, such as streptococcus, which causes strep throat. Always ask your dentist or orthodontist what their recommendation is about using any chemicals.

3. Watch the Time

If you do use any chemicals and choose to soak your retainer in a chemical solution, make sure to follow the timing directions provided. If you soak a Hawley retainer too long, you may end up corroding the metal pieces. A quick soak in equal parts mouthwash and lukewarm water is all you need to freshen the retainer’s smell and kill bacteria. Only use alcohol-based mouthwashes occasionally, as they can cause damage to the retainer.

4. Clean the Retainer Case

Don’t forget to periodically clean your retainer’s case as well. You can do this in warm, soapy water with a gentle scrub. A toothbrush works great, so be sure to have an extra on hand for cleaning both your retainer and case. Once clean, rinse it with fresh water and pat it dry. If you have time to clean it in the morning, you can leave it to dry during the day while you’re wearing your retainer.

Think You Can Skip Cleaning? Think Again.

It’s important to clean your retainer regularly. Not only does this help reduce bad smells or tastes, it also removes common bacteria. Dangerous bacteria like Streptococcus, including S. sanguinis, S. mitis, and S. salivarius, in addition to Lactobacillus and Veillonella can build up over time. Although it’s normal to see these kinds of bacteria in your mouth, when too many of them build up, it can make you sick. Be sure to reach out to your dentist or orthodontist if you notice any redness, swelling, or other worrisome symptoms in your mouth.

The Top Dentist Ponte Vedra Parents Trust

Providing Ponte Vedra complete dentistry and orthodontics treatment for children is what we are known for. From your child’s first visit all the way through Ponte Vedra braces and retainers, we can be your family’s number one pediatric dentist. Contact us to schedule your appointment today.