How to keep your retainers clean: some tips and tricks

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Orthodontic Retainers for Teeth


To maintain the health of your mouth, cleaning your retainer is a crucial dental hygiene habit. Like your teeth, retainers collect plaque, and germs over time while they are in your mouth for extended periods. Your retainer increases the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and infections if it isn't cleaned regularly. So, in this blog, we follow the instructions about dos and dont’s of cleaning the retainers.

What is a Retainer?

A device that is custom-made and worn over your teeth is called a retainer. With retainers, you can stop your teeth from moving back, it keeps your teeth in their new, proper place. The success of your orthodontic treatment depends on the use of retainers because movement can occur before you even notice it.

Transparent Retainers
Hand Holding Two Transparent Retainers

Types of Retainers

Finding out what kind of retainer you have is the first step in taking care of it. Retainers come in three varieties:

  • Hawley retainers (Metal wire retainers) are made of acrylic and custom-molded to fit your teeth. As this kind of retainer is detachable, cleaning is simple.
  • Clear plastic retainers (Eessix, Vivera, or transparent retainers) These clear, detachable retainers are made up of a nearly transparent plastic material that has been shaped to fit over your teeth.. Although they are simple to take out, they are not as strong as Hawley retainers.
  • Fixed, or bonded, retainers (permanent retainers) The lower front teeth, which are more likely to move, have these bonded retainers permanently attached to their backs.. Usually, permanent retainers are worn for several months or even years.

The reason behind cleaning your Retainers

Similar to your teeth, food particles and germs gather on your retainer, forming a filmy deposit known as plaque. If plaque isn't removed with a brush, it becomes tartar. Both the detachable plastic retainers and the metal wire serve as bacterial safe havens. These microorganisms have the capacity to produce staph infections, or infections. Permanent retainers can acquire even more plaque and tartar if they are not properly cleaned because they are placed within your mouth for an extended period of time. If ignored, it may develop into periodontal disease, an infection of the bone and tissue surrounding your teeth that can cause you to lose teeth.

How Frequently Should Your Retainer Be Cleaned?

To help avoid accumulation that grips onto the surface of the device, you should clean your retainer at least once every day. When you brush your teeth, you should clean your permanent retainer at least twice a day. Ideally, you should clean your permanent retainers right after a meal to get rid of any food particles.

How to Maintain Your Retainer

As part of your oral hygiene practice, you should clean your retainer every day. Any retainer requires regular cleaning in order to remain germ-free and fresh. A standard toothbrush can be used to carefully clean a Hawley-style retainer. Most removable retainers can be cleaned with denture cleaners, either in powder or tablet form, or with specialty retainer cleaners. Brushing and flossing are the best ways to clean fixed retainers; when necessary, an interproximal brush or floss threader can also be a useful cleaning tool.

How to Clear Plastic Retainers and Clean Metal Wire

As soon as you remove a metal wire or clear plastic retainer from your mouth to brush your teeth, you should clean it. Your detachable retainers can be cleaned in a few different ways:


Cleaning your retainers at the same time as your teeth is a simple way to remember to do:

  • After giving your retainer a gentle brushing with your soft-bristled toothbrush, rinse it with lukewarm water.
  • Use a cotton swab to clean deep grooves that your toothbrush cannot reach.
  • Use warm water to rinse any soap residue or debris away.

Sprinkle Cleaner

It might be suggested by your orthodontist to immerse your retainer in an effervescent cleaning. These are the tablets that dissolve and fizz when submerged in water. You can follow the directions on the product to determine how long to leave your retainer in the water and how often to utilize this procedure.

retainers in a solution
Picture showing clear retainers in a solution

Baking Soda

For a more thorough cleaning, you can put transparent plastic retainers and metal wire in a baking soda solution.

Use baking soda to clean your retainer by doing the following steps:

  • Fill a jar with warm water and stir in some baking soda.
  • Submerge your retainer completely in the baking soda mixture.
  • Give your retainer a few minutes to soak.
  • After giving your retainer a gentle brushing with a soft toothbrush, rinse it with warm water.


Clear plastic and metal wire retainers can be cleaned by soaking them in vinegar. According to a 2019 study, brushing alone did not remove as much bacteria from clear plastic retainers as soaking them in white vinegar.

Use vinegar to clean your retainer by doing the following steps:

  • Pour some white vinegar (preferably 5 percent) into a warm water container.
  • To soak, submerge your retainer in the vinegar.
  • Give your retainer a five-minute soak.
  • After giving your retainer a gentle brushing with a soft toothbrush, rinse it with warm water.

How to Maintain Permanent Retainers

You should clean your permanent retainers while brushing and flossing your teeth because they are attached to your teeth. Additionally, you clean the retainer by brushing and flossing it.

Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Retainer

You may keep your detachable retainer clean by forming the following tips in addition to cleaning it every day:

  • Maintain Proper Retainer Case

  • After cleaning, if your retainer isn't going back into your mouth, put it in a retainer case. Never set it down on a napkin or the counter.

  • Place only clean retainers within a retainer case

  • Make sure to brush your retainer or at least give it a quick rinse in warm water before putting it back into its retainer case.

  • Clean your retainer case

  • Wash your retainer case a few times a week with water and mild detergent to avoid the growth of bacteria.

  • Avoid drinking liquids with a retainer

  • Aside from water, beverages containing colors, sweets, or acids should not be consumed when wearing metal wire and plastic retainers. These liquids have the potential to soak into the retainer and stick sugar and acids to your teeth, raising the possibility of tooth decay.

Techniques for Cleaning Retainers That You Should Avoid

Cleaning your retainer the same way you would clean your teeth or other dental equipment may seem obvious, but it's not always the best way to take action.

  • Since toothpaste can eventually leave a white residue on your retainer, avoid using it on it.
  • Avoid soaking in mouthwash as this might discolor and eventually deteriorate your retainer.
  • Denture cleaning solutions are overly strong and can cause porosities in the retainer material, increasing the likelihood of breakage. Avoid using them.
  • To avoid the plastic warping or changing shape, avoid cleaning your retainer in hot or boiling water.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals on your retainer, like bleach.


Like brushing your teeth, cleaning your retainer should be a daily priority. Simple cleaning of your metal or transparent removable retainer can be achieved with just one gentle brushing with warm water every day. Try occasionally using a vinegar soak, baking soda, or denture cleaner for additional cleaning power. As you brush and floss your teeth, you can also clean your permanent retainer. Cleaning your retainer after eating can also aid in avoiding food accumulation, which feeds bacteria and plaque. Get in touch with your orthodontist or dentist if you're not sure if your retainer is too filthy or broken to clean. They can fit you for a new retainer if necessary.


1. How often should retainers be cleaned?

The amount of time you spend wearing your retainer will determine how often you need to clean it; people who wear their retainers full-time will require more cleaning than others who wear them occasionally.

2. Do my retainers need to air dry?

After cleaning, it is not necessary to let your retainer air dry because this can lead to the growth of bacteria and other dangerous organisms on the retainer.

3. Can I submerge my retainer in water for the entire night?

No. It is not advisable to leave your retainer in the water overnight because extended contact to moisture might cause the retainer's material to degrade.

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