Retainer Care 101: How to Properly Care for Your Retainers & how to get a Replacement from Roland Park Orthodontics

by | Sep 15, 2022 | Invisalign, Orthodontics for Adults, Orthodontics for Kids, Orthodontics for Teens

You’ve spent months, maybe even years, wearing braces so you can finally enjoy your beautifully straight smile. The last thing you want to do is have all that time wasted by allowing your gorgeous teeth to revert back to their less-than-perfect ways!

The solution: orthodontic retainers.

Retainers are an essential tool in preserving your beautiful smile. But what about preserving your retainer…? Not to worry, this simple guide details all the most important details of basic retainer care so you can keep your retainer in tip-top shape, and your teeth looking their best.

How to clean your retainer

How to clean your retainer

Both Hawley and clear plastic retainers can be removed from your mouth for daily cleaning.

To clean your Hawley or clear plastic retainer, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you clean your retainer as soon as you remove it from your mouth, while it’s still wet. This will make it easier to clean off any debris before it hardens.
  2. Brush out your retainer with lukewarm water after each meal. It’s a good idea to brush your teeth at this time as well.
  3. For a deeper clean, mix lukewarm water with mild dish soap (toothpastes are abrasive and can scratch the retainer’s surface). Use a soft toothbrush or denture brush to gently scrub away plaque and other debris.
  4. If necessary, use a cotton swab to get into the deepest grooves and ridges on clear plastic retainers.
  5. Ask your dentist about soaking your retainer in a denture or retainer cleaner, like Retainer Brite. If they recommend soaking, mix a cup of lukewarm water with one tablet of cleaner and follow the package instructions for timing.

If you notice debris on your retainer that won’t come off, take it to your dentist or orthodontist. There are special solutions that can remove stubborn tartar.

Removable Retainer Care

Fixed, or bonded, retainers

These retainers are attached to your teeth, so you must floss them daily to keep them clean. This process may seem intimidating at first, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it. Here’s how to clean your permanent retainer:

  1. Grab a 6-inch piece of floss and use a floss threader to thread the floss between your two front lower teeth.
  2. Hold one end of the floss with your fingers and the other with the threader.
  3. Once you get the floss under your retainer wire, simply move it up and down between the teeth all the way to the gum line. The floss should gently go below the gum line if possible.
  4. Slide the floss sideways to the next area you want to clean. Pull down until it’s between your teeth.
  5. Repeat this process with each tooth that’s attached to your permanent retainer.

If you’re having a hard time flossing, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your dentist or orthodontist. They can help guide your technique and provide more tips.

6 tips for removable retainer care

1. Avoid heat

Exposing your retainer to high heat can warp and ruin it. Keep your retainer away from:

  • boiling water
  • microwaves
  • dishwashers
  • washers and dryers
  • the dashboard of your car

Always wash retainers in lukewarm water.

2. Skip the chemicals

You don’t necessarily need to use harsh cleansers to get a squeaky-clean retainer. In fact, in a study on Essix retainers, researchers discovered that using chemical cleaning tablets didn’t reduce the number of bacteria any more than simple brushing did.

That being said, the tablets were effective at removing “cocci” bacteria, like Streptococcus bacteria, the cause of strep throat. Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils that causes a sore throat, fever, and red, swollen tonsils.

3. Time your soak

If you do choose to use tablets, don’t soak a Hawley retainer for too long. Doing so can corrode the metal components. Only soak the retainer for the time it takes to clean it, or as specified on your cleaning tablets.

You can do a quick mouthwash soak if you want to freshen your retainer’s smell and kill some bacteria. Be sure to mix equal parts mouthwash and lukewarm water.

If your mouthwash contains alcohol, only soak your retainer in this type of a solution occasionally. Alcohol can harm your retainer’s plastic.

4. Clean your case

Also make sure to clean your retainer case regularly. Try cleaning it once a day before you put your retainer away. Gently scrub all surfaces pf it in warm, soapy water. Then rinse it off and pat to dry.

5. Keep watch

You’ll want to keep your retainer away from pets so they don’t chew or choke on it. Likewise, be mindful of where you place your retainer while you’re eating. If you place it on a napkin, you may forget it or accidentally toss it in the trash.

6. Ah and now the BEST part: Replace as needed

Retainers are somewhat like contact lenses or shoes: They’re subject to daily wear and tear. Eventually, they may need to be replaced. Essix retainers may only last six months to a few years, as the plastic tends to wear out. Hawley retainers can last 5 to 10 years if properly cared for. If you accidentally give your retainer a toss into the garbage, Roland Park Orthodontics can come to the rescue. We offer high-quality Essix retainers at 50% of the cost, perfect for replacement or backup retainers. (Hawley retainers are full price, as they have to be made by a dental lab.)

Hawely retainers:

These are fabricated by a lab and you need to schedule an appointment at 410-296-4400 for a new  scan, so the lab can custom make a new Hawley retainer. The turnaround time is about 3 weeks.

Essix or Clear Retainers:

Just drop off your 3D printed models at Roland Park Orthodontics for new retainers at only 50% of the cost. The turnaround time is about 1-3 days.

Make Your Smile Last a Lifetime 410-296-4400

Dr. Dina Sanchez

Dr. Dina Sanchez

Board Certified Orthodontist

Dr. Dina Sanchez is a board certified orthodontist, mom, published author, wife, University of Maryland clinical professor, abstract artist, tooth fairy, and accidental lacrosse superfan. Learn more about Dr. D here.