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Cleaning & Care Tips for Retainers

At Carlson Orthodontics, you have to know that we think getting your braces off is a huge accomplishment. 

That’s why we celebrate this moment with every patient! Now that your treatment is complete, it’s time to show everyone that smile you’ve worked so hard on!

After you’ve had your braces removed, it’s on to the next step of orthodontic treatment: wearing a retainer. We recommend wearing your retainers for as long as you want your smile to retain its new shape. In other words – retention is for life. There are 3 types of retainers:
  1. Hawley retainers
  2. Essix, clear plastic retainers
  3. Fixed (aka “bonded” or “permanent”) retainers
Hawley and clear plastic retainers are removable and easy to clean, but can also be misplaced or forgotten. Fixed retainers remain bonded to the back of your teeth, which can make cleaning more difficult, but you don’t have to worry about losing a fixed retainer.

It’s incredibly important to wear your retainers after you’re done with braces. They make sure that your teeth stay spaced out properly in your mouth and prevent gaps or crowding from forming after your braces are removed. Holding everything in place gives your mouth time to adapt and “set” your new bite pattern correctly so that any bite issues you may have had (overbite, underbite, crossbite, etc.) don’t return.

One of the simplest (and costliest) mistakes that people can make is not wearing their removable retainers as often as they should (or forgetting to wear them at all!) This is a huge issue because teeth and bones tend to shift back to their old positions over time without a retainer to hold them in place. Wearing your retainer every night will make sure that your hard work doesn’t lead to retreatment later in life.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Retainer

For Hawley or Essix Retainers:

  1. It’s easiest to clean your retainer as soon as you remove it, while it’s still wet. This will make sure that any food particles or debris on your retainer doesn’t have time to dry out and harden. You should clean your retainer at least once a day, and it’s recommended to give it a deep clean once a week.
  2. Use a soft toothbrush and lukewarm water (hot or boiling water can warp retainers.) If you need an extra kick, add a little bit of mild dish soap. Don’t use toothpaste to clean your retainer; toothpaste is abrasive and can scratch it up, especially clear plastic retainers. For food particles stuck in deep grooves or ridges in clear plastic retainers, cotton swabs work great.
  3. There are several retainer/denture cleaners such as Efferdent and Retainer Brite that you can soak your retainer in for a deep clean. They usually have a small tablet or powder that you add to a glass of water and let your retainer soak in it for a few minutes (follow the instructions on the package). Your orthodontist also has special solutions they can use for stubborn debris or residue that won’t come off easily.
  4. Make sure that you also clean your retainer case! Retainer cases can get scummy and start to smell bad after a day or two. It’s a good idea to clean your case once a day using a soft toothbrush, water, and some mild dish soap. Purchasing a stainless steel case is a good idea because it is less likely to allow bacteria to build up compared to a plastic case.

For Fixed Retainers:

  1. Use a floss threader and a 6-inch piece of floss to get between two teeth that are attached to your fixed retainer; make sure you get the floss under the retainer wire.
  2. Once the floss is under the retainer wire, move it up and down between the teeth. Try to gently go below the gumline if possible for the best cleaning.
  3. Move the floss sideways to the next tooth, repeating the process for each tooth that’s attached to your fixed retainer.
  4. While brushing your teeth, make sure to brush your fixed retainer vertically and horizontally to remove any other food particles or debris.
The key to creating and maintaining a beautiful smile starts with great orthodontic care. Since 2003, our team at Carlson Orthodontics has strived towards making every patient feel like they’re a member of our extended family and ensure that they’re receiving the best care possible. We believe your smile has the power to change your life; to see how we can transform your smile schedule a free initial consultation or call us at the location closest to you today:
  • Duluth Office: 1901 South Street, Suite 2 – Duluth, MN – (218) 727-3789
  • Cloquet Office: 708 Stanley Avenue – Cloquet, MN – (218) 879-3794
  • Superior Office: 3701 Tower Avenue – Superior, WI – (715) 392-0229
  • Hayward Office: 10541 N. Ranch Road – Hayward, WI – (715) 292-5148
  • Ashland Office: 1419 Beaser Avenue – Ashland, WI – (715) 682-5958
  • Ironwood Office: 250 Roosevelt Street – Ironwood, MI – (906) 932-9720