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Tooth Talk with Brinkley Dental Group – How to Retain your Retainer!


For many a teenager and for young adults too, the topic of dental appliances is top of mind. That’s because every single day, just like our teeth, custom fitted dental appliances like retainers, must be dealt with. You, or your parents, likely just finished paying for lengthy orthodontic treatments and the retainer is the final step in the process. They must be handled with care, cleaned carefully and stored safely. The dictionary defines the word retain as something one might “continue to have, (or) to keep possession of” and when it comes to items like your retainer, or perhaps a custom made mouth guard tailored to help deal with a specific medical/dental condition like TMJ, you’re going to want to keep possession of it because these items can be costly. Today’s top tips are all about how to retain your retainer properly!

Retainers and other custom dental appliances can spend as much as 8 hours in your mouth if you are sleeping with them overnight. For some teenagers we know, this could be as long as 15 or 16 hours! (Remember those days Mom, when you thought your baby would never sleep? Trust me, they make up for it in the teen years!) No matter how clean you are the mouth is a repository for all kinds of bacteria. That means your retainer is retaining an awful lot of potentially harmful and/or plaque-causing residue so – just like teeth – it needs to be cleaned.

Here’s how:

  • Depending on the type of retainer you have you can start by brushing it every day, just like you brush your teeth. Most retainers however, shouldn’t have toothpaste applied to them but rather are simply brushed and rinsed with lukewarm water. The toothpaste (which by nature is abrasive) can actually potentially scratch the retainer leaving microscopic cracks allowing bacteria or food particles to become lodged. It’s important to know which kind you have so be sure to talk to your Dentist or Orthodontist first.
  • Make sure you are using a dedicated, soft-bristled brush that’s only used for your retainer to help minimize the potential for scratches and other damage.
  • You might also be advised to soak your retainer in mouthwash or a denture-cleaning formula to help rid it of harmful bacteria. However, some sources suggest that because retainers are porous they may retain some of the product inside and that could be harmful so you do need to ensure you are rinsing them thoroughly after cleaning.
  • Some dental professionals recommend using simple household products like white vinegar or backing soda to clean your dental appliance, leaving them to soak for ten or fifteen minutes for a deep clean. As above, rinse thoroughly after cleaning.
  • You might also want to try using mild dish soap and/or a cotton swab to really get into the grooves for a deep but non-abrasive clean.
  • For cleaning “on the go,” if you are wearing your retainer both day and night, be sure to rinse it regularly under running water between cleanings to help rinse out any trapped food particles.
  • Your retainer should be kept in its original container (which should also be cleaned regularly!) for safety and to help maintain its shape.

Most people wear a retainer after years of orthodontic treatments. Chances are, you’ve spent a great deal of money on having your teeth realigned and your smile lights up a room. Your retainer helps your teeth to retain their new alignment and is an important part of your new dental care routine. Why risk ruining that beautiful new smile? Make sure you take the time to properly care not only for your teeth but for your retainer too! These simple cleaning methods will prolong the life of your retainer and help you to maintain that perfect smile. Finally, if you notice a stubborn stain on your retainer that you just can’t get rid of, call the Brinkley Dental Team or your dental care provider. We might be able to use special cleaners or ultrasonic equipment to rid your retainer of stubborn stains. Scheduling regular teeth cleanings is always a good idea too! Until next time, we’ll leave you with this reminder – “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”

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