How to Clean Retainers

Female hand holding dental aligner retainer of dental clinic for teeth treatment

Learn the best ways to clean and maintain your retainers to be sure you protect your investment and your teeth. 

If you’re wearing a retainer frequently, cleaning your retainer and keeping your retainer clean is essential as it basically lives in your mouth. You would put any other smell bacteria-infested things in your mouth, so why would you put a dirty retainer in there? A retainer that hasn’t been cleaned will have lots of bacteria since it will be in a moist and warm environment where bacteria can thrive. It will also collect plaque and tartar which will lead to it smelling and tasting funny. 

Here are some signs you may notice when retainer cleaning is overdue:

  • Small white spots
  • Bad smell
  • Bad taste
  • Layer of film
  • Cloudy look

How to clean your retainer

There are many ways to clean a retainer. You may have to clean your retainer a certain way based on what the retainer is made out of or what cleaning product you are using.

How to clean a plastic retainer 

For plastic retainers it’s important to clean your retainer right away after you remove it from your mouth, so it can be cleaned before anything has the chance to dry. This will make it easier to clean off any debris before it hardens.

Here are the steps on how to clean a plastic retainer.

  1. Brush out your retainer with warm water after you eat.
  2. When going for a deep clean, mix warm water and dish soap, then use a soft toothbrush to scrub away and clean the surface.
  3. For the deep grooves, use a cotton swab to clean the ridges.
  4. For soaking your retainer in a denture or retainer cleaner it’s best to ask your dentist if it’s okay first. If everything is good, mix a cup of warm water with a cleaner tablet and follow the rest of the package instructions for how long to soak.

If any debris on your retainer won’t come off, take it to your dentist or orthodontist and they can use special solutions and a tool that will remove stubborn particles stuck on your retainer.

How to clean fixed, or bonded, retainers

These types of retainers are attached to your teeth, so you have to floss them daily. This process is definitely more complex, but after time it’s something that will come with ease. Here are the steps to making sure your retainer is squeaky clean.

  1. First grab floss and use a floss threader to slide the floss in between your middle front lower teeth.
  2. Then hold the end of the floss and have the other end attached to the threader.
  3. Slide the floss under your retainer wire, and move it around, up and down, in between your teeth, and gum line. 
  4. Then move the floss sideways to the next part that needs to be cleaned. 
  5. Keep doing this with each tooth that’s attached to your permanent retainer.

If you’re finding it difficult, ask your dentist or orthodontist for help, they can help guide you.


How to clean your retainer case 

While looking at the inside of your retainer case, look for anything crusty inside. If any is spotted, wipe it clean with a wet paper towel or cleaning wipe.

Your retainer case should never have any standing water inside. If you keep your retainer sitting in standing water, bacteria will grow in the case, which will enter your mouth when you use it.  If your retainer case gets really dirty which you can’t clean, you can always ask your orthodontist for a new one. They will be more than happy to give you a nice fresh one.


How to clean retainers with baking soda 

Baking soda is a great at-home cleaning option for your retainer. You may notice more toothpaste now containing baking soda. Baking soda is great because it is a scrubbing agent and also helps with bacteria in your mouth without using harsh chemicals. It can also help with the color of your retainer, preventing it from turning yellow.

When cleaning your retainer with baking soda, the first thing you need to do is make a paste that is made out of water and baking soda. You want to do 50% water, 50% baking soda, so the paste is thick enough to stick to the retainer. Use a toothbrush and scrub the baking soda paste into your retainer and then rinse the paste off when you are done scrubbing. 


How to clean retainers with vinegar 

Vinegar is a great option for cleaning retainers with a bad odor. Since your retainer lives in your mouth, lots of bacteria will end up sticking to it, causing it to smell. White vinegar is a great disinfectant that removes odors from your retainer. All you’ll need to clean your retainer is vinegar and water. You’ll want to make a mixture that is 50% warm water and 50% vinegar. Once you have this mixture soak the retainer in it for about 20 minutes and make sure to rinse your retainer afterward or you’ll be surprised by a strong taste!

Hopefully, this helped you understand how to clean a retainer. Make sure to clean your retainer often to prevent it from getting covered in tartar and bacteria. A clean retainer won’t cause you to have a funny taste or smell coming from your mouth. It’s important to know what kind of retainer you have because of the difference in the way they are cleaned can depend on the type of retainer you have. If you are unsure you can always give your dentist or orthodontist a call. Likewise, if you have trouble cleaning parts of your retainer they can help you to get it nice and clean.