Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

Wearing a retainer is both a gift and a responsibility. It’s a gift because of all the benefits that come from optimizing your oral health by keeping your teeth in alignment after getting your braces. But it is also a responsibility to keep track of and ensure that it is clean and maintained. 

Dr. Mack and his team at Mack Orthodontics are experts at supporting their patients through their entire orthodontic treatment, and that includes retainers. If you’re ready to discover your most beautiful and brilliant smile, Dr. Mack is happy to sit down with you for a free consultation at one of his offices in Hillsborough or Burlington. 

Why Retainers Are Important

Most people think of braces when they are considering orthodontics. The truth is, braces are only on your teeth for a few months or years, but your retainer will be around for much, much longer. Retainers are the easiest, and longest stage of your orthodontics because they help maintain a straight and healthy smile over the years. 

Retainers come in different styles, and your retainer will depend on the recommendation from your orthodontist!

Why Keep Retainers Clean

Dr. Mack recommends brushing your retainer every day to help keep it in great condition. This is because retainers are in the mouth and are exposed to all of the bacteria that naturally occur there, plus the food particles that are introduced. There’s a reason that dentists recommend that we brush and floss daily, and it’s the same for retainers. 

If you don’t keep your retainer clean it can result in a build-up of plaque, minerals, and invisible bacteria that can cause infections and other problems in the mouth. That’s why retainer hygiene equals oral hygiene! Now that we’re all in agreement on keeping retainers clean, let’s get into some details.

How to Clean Different Retainer Types

Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is made up of metal wire that is fixed permanently onto your teeth with bonding cement. When described like that, it sounds almost the same as braces, but don’t worry, a fixed retainer and braces are quite different. First, the metal is not fixed to each individual tooth, but rather stretches across several teeth at once, either along the top or bottom of your teeth. Second, fixed retainers are most often placed behind the teeth so they are invisible to other people.

These retainers are convenient for many reasons, but especially because they are permanent, worn continuously, are invisible, and are easy to clean. When treated with care, fixed retainers can last a lifetime and help keep your teeth beautifully straight. 

Caring for a fixed retainer means being careful with what you chew or bite, like candies and other hard foods. To clean, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to go in and around the wire, and brush at all angles to remove any trapped food particles and plaque. When flossing, use a threader to go underneath the wire and then floss as usual!

Hawley Retainers

A Hawley retainer is a removable mouthpiece made of acrylic and metal wiring that fits along the roof or bottom of your mouth. They are easy to use, but the trick is to remember to take them out for eating and drinking, and not lose them along the way! They are simple to clean, and as you build your new habit of cleaning your retainer, you’ll see just how effortless it is. 

It’s best to clean your Hawley retainer as soon as you take them out in the morning. That way saliva and bacteria don’t have the chance to dry onto your retainer, making them more difficult to clean later. Start by rinsing the retainer in lukewarm water; it’s never a good idea to wash in hot water because it can distort the acrylic!

Once rinsed, take a toothbrush that you have reserved exclusively for retainer cleaning and scrub the retainer either with some alcohol-free mouthwash or hand soap. These cleaning solutions are great for a Hawley retainer because they aren’t harsh, but can still kill bacteria. Just make sure to rinse well afterward to remove any soapy residue. And make sure to never brush your retainer with toothpaste! The abrasives that are added to toothpaste are great for cleaning teeth, but can damage your retainer!

Once clean, you can store your Hawley retainer for your next use, or wear it again! 

Essix Retainers 

Essix retainers are also simple to use and care for if done correctly. Made out of a firm plastic tray that is perfectly formed to fit your teeth, the Essix retainer is much like the Hawley retainer in terms of cleaning. 

Use lukewarm water, and scrub with a toothbrush using nonabrasive products. The deeper grooves in the Essix retainer can prove a little challenging, but don’t be afraid of giving it a good scrub and rinse well.

If you notice white build-up inside of your Essix or Hawley retainer, don’t worry, this is normal. You can soak your retainer in a denture solution like Polident, or other solutions that are formulated to be safe for retainers. The soak should loosen up the build-up and make it easy to brush away. 

Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

Mack Orthodontics Can Keep You on Track!

The great news about wearing a retainer is that when treated with care, it can last for years! If you live near Hillsboro or Burlington, Mack Orthodontics is the best place to start and finish your treatment, including support for caring for your retainer! Get in touch with one of our offices to set up an appointment or schedule a free consultation!