Jaeyoung is an oral health educator and dental disease preventer passionate about paving the way for patients to embark on their journey to proper oral hygiene. She graduated from UNC School of Dentistry in 2018 and served on the UNC SOD SPURGEON Student Government. She's always trying to keep up with new dental research articles and products to help her patients choose compatible products that work with their lifestyles. She's also a coffee lover and mom to two Bengal cats and multiple plants!
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Dental Hygienist Jaeyoung Yoo evaluates what retainers are for and why you need to be careful when taking care of them.
There are three different types of retainers: Hawley retainers, clear plastic retainers (Essix, Vivera, or others), or fixed or bonded retainers. In this article, we will discuss how to keep plastic retainers clean.
After the long journey of orthodontics treatment, your orthodontist will make you a retainer that is needed to retain the shape and position of all your teeth. Some people also have retainers to wear at night to prevent jaw pain from clenching and grinding.
We all have bacteria in our mouths, but we keep our oral health in good shape by flossing and brushing. The retainers hug your teeth tightly, so your teeth can quickly build up bacteria and tartar. These bacteria, or plaque, will get into the grooves and buildup in the retainers while in usage and can lead to strange odors and gunk buildup.
Retainers can also get stained easily. It's important that patients keep their retainers clean for fresher breath and a healthier mouth. Brushing the retainers alone or soaking them in mouthwash will not get rid of the stains and all of the bacteria.
In fact, soaking retainers in mouthwash that contains alcohol can harm your retainers' plastic structure. To effectively remove bacteria and stains in retainers, a retainer cleaner is needed. Another benefit of using a retainer cleaner would be to kill cocci bacteria.
According to a study on Essix retainers, researchers found that tablets were effective at removing Streptococcus bacteria which causes strep throat. Take a look below for suggestions on what kinds of products you can buy to clean your retainers!
Points to Consider:
As for differences between retainers, most retainer cleaners work well for both clear plastic tray retainers as well as the ones with the metal bar. As with the denture cleaners though, be sure to read the box to make sure that it’s compatible as some application types are more difficult to use on one type versus another.
Just as there are many different types of toothpastes and toothbrushes, there are many different types of retainer cleaners in the market. It can get overwhelming to try to pick the right one.
Concentrated pastes are also available and work in much the same way. However, you do have to be sure to remove them after the specified time, especially if the solution is on the stronger side.
Hands off soaking, specifically the Brite brand, is my personal favorite option. One trick I have with the tablet is you can break the tabs apart and use them that way. For example, I use half of the Brite tab and soak my retainers in for 20 minutes. This saves money and, from my experience, it cleans just as well as using a whole tablet.
Pastes work much like a less abrasive toothpaste—just add it to your toothbrush and brush down your retainer. For sprays and pastes, how well they travel depends largely on the size.
Wipes probably require the least amount of fuss. Simply use it to wipe down your retainer and rinse. Naturally, they’re very easy to travel with.
A less common method to clean retainers would be sprays and wipes, but they work on the spot as a temporary solution.
While this can largely be avoided by rinsing your retainer thoroughly after cleaning it, you might also want to consider just getting a cleaner without persulfates for peace of mind.
Persulfates do not belong in the mouth or in the body, but some retainers cleaners have them listed as their main ingredient.
Gum tenderness and tissue damage could occur if persulfates make contact with the mouth or, even worse, if they are swallowed. If you have an allergy to persulfates I would actively look in the ingredient list and make sure that it is not listed.
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This all-natural cleaning spray does require some brushing, so it’s a bit more involved than other methods, but it works fast and keeps you feeling fresh. Critical reviewers did not see a remarkable difference between using this product compared to cleaning with water. However, most reviewers liked how easy it is to use guardClean and how portable it is.
This cleaner might leave a slight blue tinge on clear aligners and some reviewers note that mixing the two packets together does require attention–though you do only have to do it once a week. But reviewers who like the product mention that it is easy to use and works well. Some of their orthodontists even recommended this brand to them!
While this may not be the easiest product to travel with, the measure yourself system makes it easy to adjust the amount added depending on how heavy your stains are. Reviewers like that you can leave your retainers in the solution for as long as you like without it having any damaging effects.
This cleaning powder comes in pre-portioned packets that are easy to travel with. However, reviewers note that it does have a rather strong odor and that you should definitely rinse well before putting your retainer in your mouth after cleaning. Most reviewers do say the product works well as advertised and keeps their mouthguards and retainers feeling clean and fresh.
Since this it works while you use your retainer, you can straighten your teeth and clean your retainers at the same time! Reviewers note that while it doesn’t really whiten your teeth, it does do a great job of keeping your retainer feeling fresh all day and preventing any unwanted odors.
Some people may not like the idea of reusing the same solution for several days in a row. This setup is also not ideal for those who travel often. But reviewers like that one package of Smile Again lasts a long time, works on stains, and cleans well. And if you want even more of a deep clean, you can get this sonic cleaner to help!
Avistar cleans your retainer quickly in 15 minutes; but, for a deeper clean, leave them in overnight. However, aside from persulfates, this cleaner also includes artificial coloring (indigo), so if you’re sensitive to colorants, this might not be the best product for you. Reviewers like that the tablets don't crumble easily and work well on odors.
This cleaner isn’t as powerful as some other cleaners, though that makes it better for daily use. On top of that, you need to soak it for 15 minutes and 15 minutes only, which can make for an awkward time period that allows for forgetting. But many reviewers say this works very well, with some saying it works best in conjunction with a brush.
Clean your retainer as soon as it comes out of your mouth in order to prevent it from drying out and accumulating debris. If your retainer has metal, be sure not to soak it for too long. Doing so may cause the metal to break down.
Try to keep your retainer wet at all times when it’s out of your mouth–allowing it to dry out can compromise the plastic. Finally, don’t forget to clean your case regularly. Even if your retainer is clean, if it’s in a dirty case you’re still exposing it to germs.
Definitely avoid using hot water since it can change the shape and elasticity of the plastic retainer. As for cleaning and gunk out of the retainers right away when it comes out of your mouth, that will help to keep its longevity. Make sure that retainers are not dried out with stains and bacteria on them!
Orthodontists recommend that you clean your retainers every week when it's new. After a couple of weeks, it is recommended that retainers are cleaned using retainer cleaner products every few days.
Always read the instructions on these products. Retainers can be worn down from daily wear, clenching, grinding, and, depending on the amount of pressure and force that is put on it, they may need to be replaced every six months to a few years.
For patients who have just finished their orthodontics treatment, it's recommended that retainers are worn for the whole day for at least three months straight to create a rigid bone structure. Once the bone structure is more rigid, patients can then wear it only nightly.
If not done so, teeth will shift back to their original structure. Having more than one retainer case can help keep them clean. Some people may forget their case and end up wrapping it in napkins or paper towels which will be easier to accidentally throw away than having it in an actual case, so be very careful.
You can't always have a clean retainer on hand, so here are some options to keep that halitosis at bay all day long.
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