You have been diligent with your braces for nearly two years, and it is finally time to take them off. It is an exciting time for all brace wearers. But if your orthodontist has prescribed retainers, you are not yet out of the woods.
Just like braces, retainers also come with a set of dos and don’ts, and maintaining them may seem tedious at first, but having patience through this step of your treatment is key to preserving that lovely new smile. A well-maintained appliance will do its job well. Read on to find out how you can keep your retainers clean and free of mold.
- Rinse your retainers with lukewarm water after each use.
- Brush your retainers with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste at least once a day.
- Soak your retainers in a denture-cleaning solution or a mixture of water and white vinegar at least once a week.
- Avoid exposing your retainers to hot water or leaving them in direct sunlight, as this can cause them to warp.
- If your retainers develop a strong odor or visible buildup, soak them in a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide for a few hours before brushing.
- Use a retainer case to store your retainers when you’re not wearing them.
- Replace your retainers every few years, or as directed by your orthodontist.
Types of Retainers
If you are wondering if retainers are necessary after brace treatment, then the answer is – absolutely yes! Studies show that retainers greatly influence orthodontic treatment results. Your teeth tend to relapse to their original positions, and the retainers are designed to prevent this from happening.
Retainers come in different types and forms. Some are fixed and stay bonded to your teeth, and others are removable. There are three different kinds of retainers:
Hawley Wire Retainers (removable)
A classic retainer is a Hawley retainer. They are made of thin metal wire and plastic or acrylic and are often used after regular braces. It is shaped to fit the roof of your mouth or behind your lower arch. A Hawley retainer lasts long if you care for it effectively.
Clear Plastic Retainers (removable)
These are prescribed after treatment with Invisalign and aren’t as durable as wire retainers.
These are glued to the backside of your teeth. Unlike removable retainers, they are fixed to your teeth. They increase your chances of plaque and tartar build-up and require maximum care and maintenance.
How To Clean Your Retainers
You must wear retainers almost throughout the day, and they collect bacteria or plaque. Rinsing them with plain water isn’t good enough, which is why cleaning them every day in the right way is extremely important.
Black mold grows in damp environments, and retainers could be the perfect home for them. If you see black mold on your retainers, immediately clean them, and never put them in your mouth.
Keeping your retainers clean, safe and mold-free can be accomplished by following these tips.
- Retainers always come with a case for safekeeping when not in use. Always store your retainers in the given case.
- Remember to thoroughly clean the retainer before putting it away. Dry the retainer thoroughly before placing it in the case.
- Keep your case clean by scrubbing gently with mild soap and a soft sponge. Keep the case dry by patting it with a dry cloth. Ensuring proper airflow in the case is also vital.
- Always carry your retainer case while traveling. A case with an eye-catching color or design may serve as a helpful reminder to carry it wherever you go!
- Take the retainer out while eating if your retainers are removable. It prevents your retainer from collecting food particles.
- Always brush your teeth before wearing your retainer. This extra step ensures that the impurities from your teeth and gums aren’t transferred to your retainer.
- Not cleaning your retainers at regular intervals could lead to the growth of molds and black spots, making them unfit for use.
- You can brush your retainer with toothpaste and water. It will remove any visible plaque build-up.
- You could also soak your retainer in warm water mixed with baking soda to remove unwanted bacteria.
- Another option is to use denture-cleaning tablets. They have anti-bacterial properties and help deep clean your retainers. Avoid leaving them in longer than 15 minutes, as the chemicals can wear off your retainer.
- Vinegar and baking soda are excellent deep-cleaning ingredients. Soaking the retainer in the above mixture along with warm water for 15 minutes can kill the harmful bacteria and keep your retainer odor-free.
- If stubborn plaque is formed on your retainer, try using an ultrasonic cleaner. It uses sound wave technology to penetrate crevices and cavities to remove plaque from retainers.
Cleaning Fixed Retainers
Maintaining good oral hygiene with permanent retainers is critical. Brushing twice every day with toothpaste containing fluoride, flossing at least once a day, and scraping your tongue and cheeks can keep plaque at bay. Special floss threaders are available that are designed to work with bonded retainers. Regular visits for teeth cleaning is also beneficial.
What To Avoid While Cleaning Retainers
- Avoid brushing your teeth with removable retainers. It will make it difficult to clean your teeth thoroughly. Brush your teeth first, then the retainer, and wear it.
- Avoid harsh cleaning substances like alcohol-based mouthwash for cleaning retainers. These potent agents can dry out your retainer.
- Heat can damage your retainers beyond repair. Therefore, avoid soaking your retainers in hot water. It will warp or melt them. Never use a microwave or dishwasher to clean them. Keep them away from direct and intense sunlight for extended periods like car dashboards, windowsills, etc. Avoid contact with hot appliances like stoves, cooktops, iron boxes, etc.
- Avoid physical damage to your retainers by handling them with care. Do not use force to apply or remove them. Some people have the habit of flicking them off with their tongues. It may look incredibly cool when Stephen Curry does it, but this habit can cause breakage.
- Children and pets should not be allowed to play with your retainers.
Keeping your retainers clean and free from mold and other bacteria is paramount to getting the most out of your treatment plan. Wearing bacteria or mold-ridden retainers can cause infection and be a severe health hazard.
If cleaning using the tips mentioned here is unsuccessful, you will need to replace your retainers, which don’t come cheap. In many cases, companies won’t make a replacement retainer based on your existing model, which means you will need to get a new mold which will bump up your costs.
Not maintaining your retainer could burn a hole in your pocket. So, it is wise to get in the habit of taking good care of your retainers.
Retainer Care 101: How to Keep Your Retainers Free of Mold and Odor
Dr. Bill Redmond is a native of Southern California, the son of an orthodontist and the husband of a general dentist. That makes family gatherings pretty interesting…if you like teeth!