After an orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist gives you a retainer to hold your teeth in new positions. You must wear the retainer correctly because failure to do so will cause your teeth to shift back to their position before the braces. In addition to wearing the retainer properly, you must keep it clean. Dirt in your retainer can lead to dental issues including tooth decay.

How to Clean a Retainer


Use Listerine

Listerine can kill millions of germs in your mouth and on a retainer. Put your retainer in a small bowl or glass and then pour Listerine until it is fully submerged. Allow the retainer to soak for about 30 seconds, remove it and use warm water to rinse it before putting it back in your mouth. Your retainer will be clean and have a minty fresh taste.


Use Denture Tablets

You can use denture cleaning tablets to clean retainers. The tablets have fizzing bubbles that can remove stains, bacteria and buildup. Place one denture tablet in a small bowl or in a glass. Place your retainer in the bowl or glass and then fill it with water. The tablet starts fizzling immediately. Allow the retainer to soak for several minutes after the tablet stops fizzling. Remove your retainer and rinse it with warm water. The fizzling bubbles can even remove tough spots on your retainer.


Try Hydrogen Peroxide

Another method of how to clean a retainer is using hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a natural and effective way of killing bacteria on your retainer. Put your retainer in a small bowl or in a glass. Pour hydrogen peroxide until the retainer is fully submerged. It may fizzle as it kills any germs on the retainer. Allow it to soak for up to a minute before removing it and rinsing it with water. This method is effective and recommended if you can stand the taste of hydrogen peroxide.


Try Vinegar and Water Soak

For this cleaning method, mix warm tap water and white distilled vinegar in equal amounts in a cup. Soak your retainer in the solution for about 15-30 minutes. Use a soft bristle toothbrush to brush the retainer gently. Rinse it off with warm water. Vinegar can kill germs. However, you may not like the smell or taste of your retainer after cleaning. Another disadvantage is that vinegar does not prevent the buildup of white plaque.


Try Mouth Soak

Mix water and mouthwash in equal parts to kill some bacteria and give your retainer a temporarily fresh smell. However, the alcohol in the mouthwash may harm the plastic part of the retainers. So, you can soak your retainer in a mouthwash once in a while but not regularly.


Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is the safest cleaning agent. It increases the mouth PH naturally to prevent harmful bacteria. Bacteria survive in an acidic environment and baking soda makes the environment basic, which eliminates the breeding ground of bacteria. Many retainers and dental devices get a rotten fruit smell with time. Baking soda is a safe, effective, and natural deodorizer.

Just make a paste of a very light toothpaste consistency with equal parts of baking soda and distilled water. Apply the paste and scrub the retainer with a toothbrush. Rinse it off after sometime.


Try Castile Soap

An alternative method of how to clean a retainer is using castile soap. Castile soap is more gentle than other soaps because its largest component is olive and coconut. Using castile soap enables you to clean your retainer without subjecting it to harsh substances. Add liquid castile soap to a little amount of warm water. Submerge the retainer in the solution and then use a toothbrush to clean it. Castile soap is not harmful if ingested but it is advisable to designate a toothbrush for applying castile soap. Rinse off the excess solution from the retainer.


Disinfect Your Retainer

  • Form a solution with warm water and a little gentle dish detergent with anti-bacterial properties.

  • Submerge your retainer in the solution and then use a designated toothbrush to scrub off all buildup or grime.

  • Rinse the retainer after thorough cleaning.

  • Put your retainer in a small bowl and then pour isopropyl alcohol until the retainer is fully submerged. You can use an alcohol-based mouthwash or Listerine in place of alcohol. Soak the retainer for about 20 minutes.

  • Rinse the retainer under running water as you try to remove all the alcohol.

  • Put the retainer is a small bowl and add distilled water. Soak for about 10 minutes to remove any remaining alcohol from the retainer.

Tips on Taking Care of Your Retainer

As you learn how to clean a retainer, you should learn other ways of taking care of your retainer. Here are some useful tips:

Keep your retainer moist. Biofilm and tartar form on dry retainers. Keep your retainer in your mouth or submerged in distilled water.


Do not oversoak acrylic and metallic retainers especially if they have soldered joints. Oversoaking beyond the required cleaning time will corrode the metal.


Do not expose your retainer to excessive heat. Do not place it in a dishwasher, microwave, car dashboard, dryer, or in boiling water.


Avoid shaking the box when soaking retainers in a retainer bath. Shaking the box does not clean them but instead damages the little arms on some retainer brands.


Do not bleach retainers. Bleach may damage the plastic parts and fade the colors that resemble your gums. In addition, removing the smell of bleach is difficult.


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