Orthodontic Information

How to clean a orthodontic retainer

dentist putting a orthodontic retainer

After completing the orthodontic treatment, wires are removed from the teeth and, then, a post-orthodontic retainer is used. The retainer minimizes the movement of the arranged teeth and prevents tooth abnormality and misalignment. Depending on the orthodontist’s recommendation, it might be necessary for the patient to use the retainer. Therefore, it is very important to keep it clean because if it is used continuously while it is not cleaned, the patient may get an infection in the gingival and oral mucous membrane. In the following, it is further explained how to clean the retainer.

close up mans hand holding removable retainer

What is retainer or post-orthodontic retainer?

A retainer, so-called post-orthodontic retainer, is a removable orthodontic appliance that should be used by the patient after the treatment period to keep the teeth in order. Retainer is used at the end of the orthodontic treatment and duration of its use varies depending on the orthodontist’s recommendation and patient’s condition. Therefore, cleaning the tooth retainer during this period is very important.

Why should the orthodontic retainer be kept clean?

Like other personal devices, the retainer is used by patients every day and since it is placed in the mouth over the teeth, it could accumulate bacteria and plaque. If the orthodontic retainer gets dirty, it will not be placed properly on the teeth and will not perform its task well. Moreover, when the retainer is dirty, no matter how much the patient takes care of the teeth by observing oral and dental hygiene, brushing and flossing, it always exposes the teeth to harmful bacteria, which cause the formation of bacterial plaque on the teeth and bad breath and make them prone to various complications including decay and infection in the oral mucosa.

Dental retainer cleaning methods

The most important thing to do after orthodontic treatment is to regularly clean your removable retainer and do not let it get dirty because it will be more difficult to clean the retainer if it remains dirty for a long time. Also, it is better to brush your removable retainer after brushing the teeth to prevent the formation of bacterial plaque on it. However, it is recommended to do this with a soft toothbrush and mild detergent and avoid washing the retainer with toothpaste and a hard toothbrush. The formation of plaque on the retainer, just like the formation of plaque on the teeth, causes bad breath.

a woman holding two toothbrushes and a removable retainer

Washing the post-orthodontic retainer daily with an antibacterial solution specific for artificial teeth is another way to keep it clean. You can get this solution from all pharmacies and put your retainer inside the solution for a few minutes to hours based on the orthodontist’s recommendation.

Washing the retainer with lukewarm water and cleaning tablets makes the post-orthodontic retainer smell better and more pleasant to use. Use a soft toothbrush and mild detergent to remove small particles on the retainer. Many patients use toothpaste to wash the retainer, which could scratch it. If you wear a clear retainer, you can use a clean cutton swab to clean its deep parts.

In some cases, calcium deposit is formed on the retainer. If it is newly formed, it could be easily removed with a toothbrush and cleaning tablet available in the pharmacy. Otherwise, you should take your retainer to your orthodontist to clean it with cleaning solutions. If these calcium deposits remain on the retainer for a long time, the orthodontist may even not be able to remove them. In such a situation, the patient should get a new one

In general, cleaning the retainer is like cleaning the teeth, i.e., you should use a suitable toothbrush and detergent after every meal to remove food debris.

FAQ about retainer cleaning

1-Can toothpaste be used to clean the orthodontic retainer?

No, you should not use toothpaste to clean the orthodontic retainer because the toothpaste is abrasive and can scratch the surface of the retainer and make it unusable. Use a mild detergent such as dishwashing liquid or soap to clean it.

2-How should I know what type of detergent is suitable for cleaning my orthodontic retainer?

In most cases, using mild non-acidic and antibacterial soaps can be a good option for washing the orthodontic retainer. However, it is better to ask your orthodontist about it.

3-Can I boil the orthodontic retainer to clean it?

No, you should never use boiling or very hot water to clean the orthodontic retainer. Therefore, it is not recommended to boil the retainer for disinfecting and cleaning it because this could cause serious damage to the retainer.

Dr Abdolreza Jamilian Orthodontist
About Dr Abdolreza Jamilian Orthodontist

Dr. Jamilian, an orthodontist, has a specialized fellowship in orthodontic surgery and maxillofacial abnormalities and is a full-time professor in the orthodontics department of the Dentistry School of the Islamic Azad University. He is member of Iranian and European Board of Orthodontics (EBO) and is a member of the Iranian, American and European Orthodontists Association.

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