Those pesky, but all too essential retainers—we may neglect them every once in a while, or perhaps even regularly. But, for the longevity of the device, as well as our own health, retainer care should be top of our lists.
As Healthline points out, there are several reasons to take proper care of your retainer:
Bacteria is not welcome here.
Simply put, retainers collect bacteria. Whether these devices are inside the mouth all day long or only during the night, your retainer can collect bacteria, plaque, and tartar.
Besides a funky, unpleasant smell or off-taste, it's important to know that improper and irregular cleaning puts you at risk for more dangerous forms of bacteria to accumulate on your retainer and lead to infection.
First, know what type of device you are working with.
There are three common types of retainers: Hawley (removable), clear plastic retainers (removable), and fixed/bonded retainers.
Knowing which type you have is key, so that you can best care for this device.
Cleaning/care tips for removable retainers include:
#1 Do not expose your device to heat (such as microwaves, dishwashers, boiling water, washer/dryer, and the inside a hot car). Heat can cause the retainer to bend and warp.
#2 Avoid harsh chemicals. You may decide to soak the retainer using dissolvable tablets. Ensure that these are gentle cleansers and read the instructions before using.
#3 Try softly brushing the device with toothpaste. Consult the care instruction on your specific retainer. However, in general a gently brush, using a toothbrush will help to wash away bacteria. Note: do not scrub forcefully, as doing so can cause the retainer to lose its shape.
#4 Don’t forget to clean the case! Simply wash the surface with warm, soapy water, rinse, and allow the case to dry.
Flossing fixed/bonded retainers is key.
For retainers that are fixed or bonded (aka attached to your teeth), floss these on a daily basis. To do so, you will need floss and a floss threader (which your orthodontist likely provided to you). For assistance on this process, ask your dentist or orthodontist.
One thing is for sure— For retainers to do their jobs, proper care is vital.