Hey you. Yeah, you.

Your retainers are GROSS.

We already know – we can smell it from all the way over here.

We know you’re one of the good kids who wore your retainers all day when you first got your braces off. Since then, you’ve been wearing them every night without fail. Your orthodontist told you how important it was to keep using your retainer so that your teeth wouldn’t move, and thankfully, you listened. You know that retainers are what’s keeping your teeth in the right place.

Great. Cool, they’re important. But the thing is that if they aren’t clean, you’re basically popping a bacteria-laden metal doohickey back into your mouth every time you put them on.

Cleaning your retainers isn’t rocket science, but it’s understandable that you might not know exactly how to go about it. So, like a cleaning solution on hardened plaque, let’s break it down:

When To Clean

You should do a simple cleaning of your retainer every time you brush your teeth. At least once a week, you should do a deeper clean to ensure that your retainer stays in good shape.

Some signs that you need to clean your retainer are when it smells or tastes bad, looks cloudy or has white spots, or has a filmy layer. These are usually signs that there is tartar or plaque building up on the retainer, as a result of bacteria.

Also, if it’s been over a week since you last cleaned your retainer… it’s definitely time to do it again!

How To Clean

Your daily cleaning routine for your retainer does not have to be complicated. Just as you brush your teeth twice a day, you can and should clean your retainers at the same time.

1. Rinse It

As soon as you take your retainer out of your mouth, rinse them immediately! You can use warm or cool water to do this, but never use hot water. Use your fingers to remove any loose particles on the retainer.

2. Soak It

With a safe cleaning solution of your choice, let your retainer chill out for a few minutes. Your cleaning solution can be store-bought, or even homemade with a special baking soda creation.

3. Brush It

By far the most important part of this cleaning routine is scrubbing the retainer clean with a toothbrush. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, be sure to get into tiny corners and crevices of your retainer because that’s where those pesky germs are hiding.

4. Rinse It (Again)

Just to make sure you got all of the soap and debris off!

5. Put It Away

After you’re all done brushing, do one of two things with your retainer: either store it in a bowl of water, or put it back in your mouth.
If you choose not to wear your retainer for a few hours, it’s important to at least keep it moist – which is why we recommend storing it in water. Just don’t put it in a napkin.

This process should not take you more than 5 minutes. And it’s so simple!

Things NOT To Do

In order to protect your retainer from any damage, it’s important to touch upon a few things that you should not do to your retainers.

  • Use Hot or Boiling Water
    Put this under NEVER. High heat can significantly damage your retainer. While it’s true that boiling water is great for killing germs, your retainer will become warped and misshapen if it is exposed to extremely hot water.
    When cleaning your retainer, keep it safe and use lukewarm or cold water.
  • Brush with toothpaste
    When you brush your retainers, don’t use toothpaste! While good for your teeth, toothpaste won’t do any good for your retainers.
  • Soak in mouthwash
    Mouthwash, or any other solution containing alcohol, should not be used as a cleaning. They aren’t usually effective for cleaning, and they will also dry out your retainers.
  • Use denture cleaners
    These should be saved for rare occasions – denture cleaners such as Polident or Efferdent can be harsh on your retainers and eventually damage them. If your retainer is in need of some heavy cleaning, this may be an option for that rare circumstance.

After completing your braces treatment, the best thing you can do for your teeth is to use your retainers consistently and keep them clean. And when cleaning your retainer is this easy, there’s really no excuse. Especially since putting an unclean retainer back in your mouth is nasty.

To learn more about how you can care for your retainers, visit Dr. Artin Meserkhani and Dr. Melineh Dereghishian at Orthodontics LA in Encino and Glendale.