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How to Clean Retainers – Tips from Dr. Gibbs

Dr. Eric gibbs
dr. Eric gibbs

You may have to wear a retainer once the braces come off as a final step to permanently aligning your teeth. Regardless of your type of retainer, it must be properly cleaned and cared for to have a perfect smile in the coming years. Dr. Gibbs understands your need for healthy, straight teeth and comes up with the best treatment options to help you achieve your goals. Make an appointment with Dr. Eric Gibbs to learn more about the need to wear retainers and how they can ensure successful orthodontic treatment results. The best-rated orthodontist Dr. Gibbs provides the latest tips and tricks to keep your retainers clean and prevent damage so that you can look forward to having strong teeth and a dazzling smile in the coming years.

Completing your initial orthodontic treatment is an achievement, as wearing braces for months and years is not easy. The orthodontist will recommend a retainer to prevent your teeth from reverting to their original position once the braces are taken off. You will get a custom-designed retainer made from plastic and metal that fits snugly over your teeth to make sure your teeth remain in their newly aligned place even after the braces come off.

Wearing retainers regularly for a year or more can prevent teeth shifting, and you can enjoy straight and perfect teeth. However, only wearing retainers is not enough. You must also take care of them when eating, brushing, or flossing. The good thing is that retainers are easy to care for and clean and give you a chance to preserve the desired results.

There are fixed as well as removable retainers. The specialist recommend the right type depending on your need for dental correction. However, as the retainer sits inside the mouth and against the teeth, it can quickly accumulate bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Taking care of your retainers is a significant part of successful orthodontic treatment.

Learning the correct way to care for your retainers and how to clean them accurately can increase their lifespan and maintain strong teeth and gums.

How to clean your retainers?

Just like you brush your teeth every day, it is essential to clean the retainer carefully after eating or drinking for preventing the buildup of plaque, reducing the risk of cavities, and maintaining good oral hygiene.

Cleaning retainers by type

Caring for your retainers begins with identifying the type of appliance you have.

There are three types of retainers:

  • Hawley retainers– They are molded out of acrylic to fit your mouth. These retainers have a wire that helps hold the appliance in place. This type of retainer is removable, which makes it easy to clean.
  • Clear plastic retainers– They are just like Invisalign clear aligners that slip over your teeth and are almost invisible. They can be removed easily and cleaned but are not as durable and need careful handling as they can crack or break.
  • Fixed, or bonded retainers – These are permanent retainers that are cemented to the teeth and cannot be taken off. Proper brushing and flossing are necessary to keep these retainers clean and remove any leftover food particles after eating.

Orthodontist’s recommended tips for cleaning your retainers

Various types of cleaning products are available for keeping your retainers clean. Specialists recommend cleaning your retainers regularly to prevent the buildup of plaque and bacteria in the mouth.

Here are a few orthodontists’ recommended tips to ensure your retainers remain clean and free from bacteria.


It is the natural and the best cleaning solution.

Washing the retainers with water while brushing your teeth discourages bacterial growth. If your retainer feels dirty, try swishing some water in your mouth to clean it. Drinking plenty of water during the day can also prevent bacterial overgrowth in the mouth. Water also combats a dry mouth which is closely linked to dental decay.

Do not let your retainers dry out as they are more likely to get damaged. Soak them in distilled water every time you take them out. If you do not have a container at hand to soak them or if you cannot clean them right away, wrap them in a damp paper towel till you clean them with water.

Your retainer case also needs proper cleaning if you are wearing removable retainers. Clean it once a day before placing your retainer to prevent bacterial growth. Wash it with warm soapy water and gently scrub the surfaces before rinsing and drying it.

Baking soda

Baking soda is a natural antiseptic, and very effective for cleaning retainers.

Make a paste by mixing equal amounts of baking soda and water. The paste should be thick enough to stick to the retainer. Apply this paste onto the retainer with the help of a soft toothbrush. Brush gently and rinse thoroughly to clean the retainer.

Soaking your trays in the baking soda-water solution can remove the yellowish tinge and get rid of bacteria to maintain the pH balance in your mouth.


White vinegar is a natural disinfectant, and it can help to remove calcium and mineral deposits on the retainers and eliminate odors and bacteria.
Combine equal parts of water and vinegar in a bowl or dish and soak your retainer for at least 20 minutes in the solution to get it thoroughly cleaned.

Castile soap

Castile soap is a safe and effective way to keep the retainers clean.
The main ingredients of castile soap are coconut oil and olive oil, which make it less toxic than many other cleaning products.

You can buy it from any reputable store nearby or make your own castile soap solution easily at home. Make a small amount of castile soap with warm water. Soak your retainer into the mixture for about 10 minutes and use a soft toothbrush to scrub it. Don’t forget to rinse your retainer with water before putting it back in your mouth.

Retainer cleaner

Retainer cleaner is easily available in the market if you are short of time and cannot make your cleaner at home. Ask your orthodontist about the retainer cleaner that will work best for your specific retainer type.

It is essential to follow the instructions on the package regarding its usage to avoid damaging your retainer. A few cleaners require the use of a sonic cleaning machine or overnight soaking, while others are not meant for certain types of retainers or people with sensitive teeth or gum diseases. Consult your orthodontist to learn more about retainer cleaning products and their effects on teeth before purchasing them.

Tips for cleaning your retainers

Other retainer cleaning methods you should avoid

You can damage your retainer if you fail to use the right methods for cleaning it. It can be a costly mistake as retainers do not come cheap.

Do not clean your retainer with anything that has not been prescribed by your specialist. Do not use any of the following for cleaning your retainers:

  • Brushes
  • Dishwashers
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Boiling water or other hot substances
  • Mouthwash
  • Retainer cleansers and tablets
  • UV light sanitizers
  • Bleach, alcohol, and other harsh chemicals

Cleaning retainers with mouthwash

Most people believe cleaning retainers with mouthwash can help to keep them fresh and bacteria-free.

It is wrong as mouthwash contains alcohol, and anything with alcohol is not beneficial for retainers. It fails to clean the retainers effectively and also dries them out, making them more vulnerable to damage.

Cleaning retainers with toothpaste

Do not clean your retainer with toothpaste.
It is meant for your natural teeth and contains abrasive compounds that are good for scrubbing the enamel clean and making the teeth shine. However, it does not work effectively on retainers as they are delicate, and these compounds can damage their material.

Other cleaning agents and chemicals

Other cleaning agents, including bleach and chemicals, are harsh for oral use and should be avoided. Also, the chemicals in cleaning agents get absorbed by the retainer and dry it out.

Denture cleaners are often used for retainer cleaning, but it is necessary to understand that they are not the same. Many dental cleaners contain persulfate, a chemical labeled as an allergen, and you should consult your dentist before using any product. Dental cleaners may remove the plaque buildup, but they can also damage the retainer. If you continue to use denture cleaners, they may change the color of your retainers. Only use denture cleaners as a one-time emergency solution when there is no other option.

Carbonated drinks may be a good cleaning agent for many other things, but they are bad news for retainers. Similarly, sodas and other sugary drinks can affect a retainer just like they affect your teeth. Take out your retainer before enjoying a carbonated drink. These drinks create a breeding ground for bacteria in your mouth if you are not careful.

Do not boil the retainer in water as heat can distort its shape. Never leave your retainer in a hot car, near a heater or hot stove. The soft material used in the retainer can change its shape and affect the way it interacts with and guides your teeth.

How to clean fixed retainers

You cannot remove permanent or fixed retainers to clean them. You will have to clean them the same way you clean your teeth by flossing and brushing. Flossing around the permanent retainers can be tricky, and you may have to use special dental floss or floss threaders that are specifically designed for this purpose. A water flosser may also help in this regard.

As permanent or fixed retainers cannot be taken off for deep cleaning, you will have to visit your orthodontist for regular checkups and care.

Retainer cleaning myths

Some common retainer cleaning myths that you should not believe include:

  • Retainers are clean as long as you continue to brush your teeth regularly and take them off when eating.
  • Retainer cleaners or cleaning solutions are bad for your teeth and the retainer.
  • Probiotics and other supplements can keep your mouth and retainer healthy, and you do not need to clean them.
  • You need good bacteria on your retainer, and using cleaning agents on the retainer can kill the good bacteria.

As the retainer is placed inside your mouth and is in direct contact with your teeth, it can lead to bacterial growth, plaque, and tartar buildup in your teeth. To ensure long-term results of your braces and avoid dental cavities, it is essential to keep your retainer clean and odor-free with the right cleaning methods that increase its lifespan and prevent any damage.

Visit orthodontists at Gibbs Orthodontic Associates to learn more about the use of retainers, how they can play a crucial role in permanently aligning your smile and how to properly care for them for desired results. Dr. Eric Gibbs specializes in preventing and correcting mal-positioned teeth, jaws, and misaligned bite patterns and delivers high-quality, personalized care for patients seeking a perfect smile. With top tips from experienced orthodontist on the Upper East Side, you can keep your retainers clean and enjoy good oral health. If you want more information on how to wear retainers successfully and maintain a perfectly aligned smile, schedule an appointment with Dr. Gibbs. The expert recommends the best solutions and specific care instructions to keep your retainer in good condition and prevent it from damage.

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