Retainers are used after orthodontic treatment in order to “retain” or hold your teeth in their new position. In order to keep your results, your orthodontist will provide you with instructions on how often and how long to wear your retainer. During this time, you will also need to care for your retainer by protecting it from damage and keeping it clean. To prevent your retainer from being damaged, you will simply store it in its plastic case when it is not in your mouth. However, things are a bite more complicated when it comes to cleaning your retainer.
For starters, the way you clean your retainer will depend upon the type of retainer you have. There are three different types of retainers that you can have, including: Hawley, clear plastic, and fixed. Both Hawley and clear plastic retainers are removable, while fixed retainers are fixed or bonded to the teeth and cannot be removed. As you can imagine, removable retainers are cleaned differently from fixed retainers. Let’s take a look at how to keep your particular type of retainer clean:
Removable Retainers (Hawley and Clear Plastic)
A Hawley retainer is made up of a colored acrylic base and a wire that holds it over your teeth, while clear plastic retainers are similar to the clear plastic aligner trays used for orthodontic treatment. Clear plastic retainers are sometimes also known as Essix or Vivera retainers. When cleaning a Hawley, Essix, or Vivera retainer it is important to NEVER use hot or boiling water because this can warp your retainer’s shape. For the same reason, you will never want to use a dishwasher or washing machine to wash your retainer. Finally if you have a Hawley retainer, you will want to avoid soaking it for extended periods of time since this can corrode the metal.
To properly clean Hawley, Essix, and Vivera retainers, you will need to make sure to clean them as soon as they are removed from your mouth. This is because debris can harden on the surface of your retainer once it dries, making it harder to clean. You will clean your retainer using lukewarm water and a soft toothbrush to gently brush the retainer. It is recommended to clean your retainer anytime it leaves your mouth. It is also advised to brush your teeth before replacing your retainer. You should also intermittenly clean your retainer case as well.
Every now and then it is also beneficial to give your retainer a deep cleaning using mild dish soap and a soft toothbrush. In some cases, your orthodontist may also recommend using retainer or denture cleaner mixed with one cup of lukewarm water. Be sure to avoid using hard toothbrushes or toothpaste since both are abrasive and can scratch the surface of your retainer.
A fixed retainer is a piece of wire bonded to the back side of your lower front teeth. Since it is not removable and often remains in place for months or even years, it is also sometimes known as a permanent retainer. To properly clean a fixed retainer, you will need to floss around it daily. However, you will need to use a floss threader to thread the floss between your teeth underneath the retainer wire. Once the floss is under the wire, you can floss as usual, but you will need to slide the floss across the wire to the next tooth.
Dr. Williams is up to date with all of the latest techniques and theories in the practice of orthodontics and is an active member of the American Association of Orthodontists. He is dedicated to providing the highest quality of orthodontic care to every patient.