3 Tips for How to Take Care of Your Retainer

Published by Dr. Charles Gemmi

A Board Certified Orthodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, Dr. Charles Gemmi has been a practicing orthodontist with Orthodontics Limited since 2000 and is a member of the teaching staff at Einstein Medical Center. Orthodontics Limited is a Diamond+ Provider of Invisalign in Philadelphia and Hatboro, PA.

Some orthodontic patients need to just wear one retainer on the bottom or on the top, but some patients might need both. Typically at first, you will wear the retainer all day long and then you will most likely only have to wear it at night to sleep. Keep in mind that each individual treatment plan is different.

Retainers generally come in two types, removable and fixed. The removable kind are usually worn for about a year, while the fixed retainer may be worn for several years. Fixed retainers are adhered to the backs of your teeth using cement.

Retainers are typically made of:

  • Acrylic – These are the most common type of retainers. They are made of bendable wire and acrylic and are adjustable. They also come in different colors and styles.
  • Clear – These are made of molded clear plastic that fits over your teeth. Because these are less noticeable they are a popular choice, especially for adults.

Like when you were wearing braces, with the retainers, your teeth may feel pressure and you may experience some soreness as your mouth adjusts to the retainer. If the retainer causes you pain though or cuts into your gums, then let your orthodontist know. It probably needs some readjustment.

Expect your speech to be affected for the first few days. Try talking at a slower speed until you get used to the feel of the retainers in your mouth. Reading aloud for a few minutes a day can also help. The retainer may also stimulate an increased saliva production in your mouth those first few days. Don’t worry, all of this is expected.

The key to great results from your time in retainers is to take care of them properly. Here are 3 tips for how to take care of your retainer:

Follow All Instructions

It goes without saying that for best results you should follow all the instructions that your orthodontist gives you. Your retainers are custom made so it is important to follow all the instructions to the T.

Keep Your Retainer Clean and Fresh

Your retainer is going to end up with a lot plaque, bacteria and leftover food particles stuck on it, an expected hazard of being in your mouth all day, so it is important to always keep your retainer clean and fresh.

When caring for your acrylic retainer, make sure to rinse it out several times a day with warm water to get rid of the bacteria build up. Also make sure you disinfect it at least once a week by soaking it in distilled water with some baking soda or a little drop of castile soap.

You can also create a paste with baking soda to use to scrub the appliance. Just mix equal parts baking soda and water until it forms a paste. Then put the paste on a toothbrush and gently scrub the retainer. The baking soda will help increase the pH of your mouth.

Things to avoid with this type of retainer include putting them in the dishwasher or boiling water and cleaning with regular toothpaste or harsh cleaners or chemicals.

Care for the clear aligner/retainer is a little different. Still rinse it out with warm water every time you remove it, but then use a drop of dish soap on a soft bristle toothbrush to really scrub them. Make sure to work the soap into a lather for best results. Clean the aligner inside and out, getting all the crevices. After you are done cleaning, rinse the aligner with warm water before putting it back into your mouth.

Do not ever use toothpaste on your retainers because it will scratch it up and affect the look of the retainer causing you embarrassment when you smile. Also do not put in boiling water. To avoid staining, never eat with the retainers on.

Protect Your Retainers

When your retainers are not in your mouth, keep them in a case to keep them from getting scratched up or lost. Always be mindful of where you put them when you take them out of your mouth. Keep them safely away from any family pets or small children and don’t stick the case in the pocket of your pants or jacket where it can easily fall out. Never just leave your retainer next to your plate while eating. It can too easily just be swept up with all the dirty dishes and trash.

There are other uses for retainers. They are used to shift a gap between teeth or when there is just a single tooth that needs to be shifted. They are even used to treat jaw issues like temporomandibular disorder.

Practicing good oral hygiene is also essential to protect your smile. Make sure you are brushing and flossing your teeth regularly and keeping your retainer clean to prevent cavities and gum disease. Make sure you also go for your regular dental cleanings as well while you are wearing the retainer. What you do today can have an impact on your long term oral health, which is also connected to your overall health.

The ultimate goal is a healthier, more beautiful smile so never forget that. Be committed to keeping your teeth and retainers clean and doing everything your orthodontist instructs you to do. The hard work will pay off and you will have a healthier and happier you. Aren’t you worth it?

For more information about retainers and how to take care of them, call Orthodontics Limited today. They will help you set up a free consultation and get you on the road to the smile you have always wanted.

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3 responses to “3 Tips for How to Take Care of Your Retainer”

  1. Easton Memmott says:

    I really liked the tip you gave to use soap on your invisalign retainers to keep them clean and fresh. My daughter is at the dentist right now to get her invisalign retainers so I am at home learning how to take care of them to teach her. I will make sure to tell her that the best way to keep them clean and fresh is to use soap and distilled water.

  2. natalie says:

    This is all helpful. I’ve had my retainers for 3 days now. What I am confused about it before washing and putting the clear retainers back in my mouth should they be wet still or dried out?
    When looking online I get different comments can you help?

  3. J. Lester says:

    I’ve searched everywhere on the Internet, but haven’t found an answer. I only use my (clear) retainers at night. Usually I clean them as soon as I take them out and before I put them back in. During the day, what is recommended? To (1) keep them dry in a safe space/container; (2) in distilled water; or, (3) it doesn’t matter as long as they are being cleaned regularly?

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