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How to Clean Retainers : A Complete Guide

August 19, 2020

How to Clean Retainers 101

If you are an orthodontic patient, you can concur with me that the happiest day was when you removed your braces. You had been waiting for this moment with lots of expectations. A perfect smile is what you want. However, to keep the glimmer of the new smile, your doctor prescribed retainers to keep it in place.

Three days with the retainer in place, you start to wonder if it needs cleaning. Since the retainer is probably new to you, you are green and don’t know how to clean it.

Do the Retainers Need Any Cleaning?

Yes, the retainers need to be cleaned as often as possible. Doing this will ensure you keep a healthy dental structure and maintain the great smile you have been so patiently awaiting. They can accumulate bacteria that can, in turn, cause infections to your teeth and gum.
In this article, I will focus on why and how to clean retainers.

Since you will probably be wearing the retainer full-time, you will need to clean it. The retainer takes its position in your mouth. It sits against your teeth. With time, you will find that the retainer has accumulated some tartar, plaque, and a good deal of bacteria. The reason you need to brush your teeth daily is the same reason you need to clean your retainer.

Orthodontic Arts shows an example of a retainerTo clean your retainer correctly, you will first need to identify the kind of retainer you have. The following are the three types.


These are retainers that are molded from acrylic to fit correctly into your mouth. The retainer comes with wires that keep it in place. Since this type of retainer is movable, cleaning it is not an uphill task.
Clear Plastic

You might have come across brand names like clear aligners, Vivera, Essix, and others. These retainers are pretty invisible and slip over your dentition very easily. Though they don’t last as long as the Hawley, they are easy to remove.

Bonded or Fixed

You could refer to these as permanent retainers. The retainers will stay on your lower front teeth. Most dental specialists recommend using these if you have a more significant probability of having your teeth shifted.

How to Clean Retainers?

For an exhaustive guide on cleaning your specific retainer, I will cover all the retainer type cleaning methods.

Cleaning Hawley and Clear Plastics

You will find that both the Rawley and the clear plastics type are removable. Removing them allows you to conduct daily cleaning on them. To clean this kind of retainer, use the following procedure.
• Ensure that you always clean the retainer immediately you get it out of your mouth. Cleaning right away is an excellent idea since the retainer is still wet. Any unwanted substances on the retainer can clean off before the retainer hardens, making them sticky.
• It would be best if you always brushed the retainer using some lukewarm water. During the brushing, you can use mild dish-washing soap.
• To ensure that the depth of cleaning is enough, you can use mild dish cleaning soap. Using toothpaste to clean them is not recommended. Toothpaste is abrasive and could damage the surface of the retainer. However, you can use a soft brush to scrub the plaque and tartar from the retainer’s surface.
• You can also use a cotton swab to clean the deeper grooves in the retainer. Some debris could remain unmoved in the deeper sections. To ensure that the cleaning is useful, you should use the cotton swabs to reach the grooves.
• There are also retainer cleaning solutions already in the market. You can confer with your dentist on the best cleaning solution for you.

With time, you might find that your Hawley retainer has some debris that has failed to come off. If this is the case, you should take it to your orthodontist for extensive cleaning.Orthodontic Arts shows you how to clean retainers

Cleaning Bonded or Fixed

These retainers are mostly hard-fixed to your teeth. Cleaning them cannot be as effective as the Hawley retainer. However, you can use dental floss to maintain them. The process of flossing the retainer could be pretty daunting. Before you can catch up, you can use the following tips to clean the fixed retainer.

• Take a piece of floss that is about 6-inches and thread it between the two front lower dentition.
• Using your hand, hold one side of the floss using your thumb, index finger, and the other side of the floss with the floss threader.
• When you get the floss below the retainer’s wire, you can now move it in ups and downs up to the gum-line. You may take the floss a little under the gum-line if possible.
• To move on to the next area you want to clean, slide the floss sideways and pull it down till it goes between the teeth.
• To complete the cycle, repeat the whole process with each tooth attached to the fixed retainer.

However, if you have difficulties when flossing, consider talking to your orthodontist or dentist. They can help you with tips and tricks to get around the flossing issue.


Cleaning the retainers will ensure that your teeth remain clean as well. However, to maintain your retainer, you should avoid using heat and chemicals. You should ensure that the soaking time is not too extended since the metal components will deteriorate in the Hawley type. Dogs and cats like to play with the retainer; hence, if you don’t keep watch, you will find it damaged.

Orthodontic Arts, your number one Orthodontist in OKC. Our Certified Orthodontist provides the latest and greatest Orthodontic practices to our clients in the OKC and Midtown area. Orthodontic Arts is the best place for child and teen orthodontics as well as adult orthodontics. Be sure to ask about Invisalign and invisible braces! Contact us today at (405) 604-3745 or request an appointment.