Retainer Care & Wear Instructions

Retainers are very effective tools for maintaining that beautiful and healthy smile!  As you get older, many things in your body change and your teeth are no different but the proper care and use of retainers will help ensure your teeth are always looking great! The following tips on retainer care and wear can help you use your retainer in the most effective way possible.

Bonded or Fixed Retainers

This style of retainer is glued onto your teeth and therefore you don’t actually have to remember to wear it to ensure it is working but this style does take extra effort in keeping them clean!  You will need to take extra care and time while cleaning around and underneath the retainer to ensure plaque and calculus doesn’t build up!

Removable Clear or Hawley Style of retainers

These are the other styles of orthodontic retainers that you are able to take in and out on your own.  Removable retainers will need to be worn 20-22 hours for a minimum of 2 weeks (your individual treatment might require longer) and then 12 hours per day indefinitely.  If retainers are not worn properly, there is a chance you will allow your teeth to move slightly.   How fast your teeth move if you are not wearing the retainers properly varies greatly from person to person and some people do have to wear retainers more than others!  Just remember that proper retainer is the best way to protect your investment of a beautiful smile!

Don’t Wear Your Retainer While Eating

Your retainers fit your mouth so well because they are custom made just for you. This may lead you to almost forget you have them on and you may even leave it in while you’re eating. However, you should never wear your retainer while you eat due to the risk of trapped bacteria.  It is ok to drink NON SUGAR fluids with retainers but best to remove if you are eating any type of food. Tiny particles of food can get lodged in crevices between the teeth and the gums easily, and the retainer can trap them in place. This allows harmful bacteria to cause serious tooth decay over time. The answer is simple, though: Simply remove your retainer prior to each meal or snack.  And after the first two weeks, wearing the retainers between dinner and breakfast is usually close to 12 hours! Don’t forget to brush and floss your teeth before you put the retainer back in place!

Clean Your Retainer Every Day

These are also good tips for cleaning your Invisalign trays!

Your retainer should be kept clean because it’s almost always touching your teeth and gums.  And it keeps it from smelling and tasting bad!  Cleaning your retainer doesn’t need to be complicated: You can use a soft bristle toothbrush and some mild soap and water, and then rinse it off thoroughly. Your goal is to make sure all the saliva is removed so they will dry and be clean and fresh when you wear them next.  DO NOT use any bleach or alcohol solutions to clean retainers and try to avoid temperature extremes like boiling water, microwave or dishwasher.  Also, use caution with denture cleaners as they are specifically designed for dentures and some can cause damage to retainers. Here are some tips in case they need a little extra clean:

Light Yellow or Whitish Crusties:

So you have tried to clean them but you just cannot get the little white “barnacle” looking crusties off of the aligners or retainers.  The key is to use a little distilled white vinegar.   Get a bowl of warm NOT HOT water and add distilled white vinegar to a 50:50 solution.  Let the retainers or aligners soak for 15-30 minutes and then use a toothbrush to clean them with the solution.  You may need to repeat for super gnarly looking retainers!  Rinse the retainers well to get rid of the vinegar taste.

Warm Water and Distilled White Vinegar 50:50 solution 15-30 minutes soak

Relatively clear but have turned a yellow color

Your retainers are fairly clean but have started to turn an tan or yellow color that you cannot get out using normal cleaning methods.  Make a 50:50 solution of Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda and soak the retainers for 15-30 minutes.  Then brush the retainers with the solution to get the best result!  While these are household items, they make a strong cleaning solution and this should not be use as your normal daily cleaner as it will cause the retainers to become brittle and possible break or crack.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda in a 50:50 solution 15-30 minutes soak

Retainer Cleaners

There are also several different over the counter retainer cleaners that you can purchase that also do a great job (Retainer Brite, Fresh Guard).  While some companies state that you should use a “cleaner” daily, if you are getting all the saliva off each time you remove them this is not necessary.  Only using a cleaning solution as needed will save you some money and extend the life of your retainers.  

Hint:  Make sure you use a retainer cleaner and not a denture cleaner.  Retainers and dentures are made from different materials and thus have different cleaning solutions that should be used.

Speaking of Storage

Retainer storage is one of the biggest mistakes that many retainer wearers tend to make. This mainly happens because most people just don’t take the time to store it properly. You may have popped your retainer out and placed it on a lunch tray, on a napkin, or wrapped up in a tissue while you eat. All of these storage ideas tend to be problematic because they make it far too easy to accidentally toss the retainer into the trash. You’ll receive a retainer case when you get your new retainer, one which is shaped and sized perfectly for storage. It’s important that you use it and have your name and phone number on it! It’s small enough to easily fit into your pocket, bag, or purse. If you simply make a habit of placing the retainer in the case whenever it’s not in your mouth, you’re much less likely to misplace or lose it.

Feel Free to Check In!

If you are wearing your retainers properly, very few people have any problems during this phase of maintaining your smile!  But things do happen and sometimes the retainers get damaged, worn out or a stubborn tooth wants to shift.  It is important to give us a call anytime that you have any questions about your retainers and how to use them.  If you let us know as soon as you notice anything different we have many more options that take less time and money! We can identify any potential issues with retainer fit early on, which allows them to make any necessary adjustments or have new retainers created.  

Questions About Retainers?

Maintaining your beautiful smile is easy but does require constant use of a retainer.  If you have any questions about your retainers or any retainers options you may have, Please let us know!

Strickland Orthodontics is an orthodontic practice with five locations in Alabama. The practice is led by a father and son team of orthodontists. As a very well-established Alabama practice, Strickland Orthodontics has been honored with several prestigious awards. The services offered at Strickland Orthodontics include retainers, traditional braces, Invisalign, clear braces, gold braces, auxiliary appliances, expanders, soft tissue laser, and surgical orthodontics. Call the office anytime to learn more or to schedule an appointment.  We would love to talk to you about options to help you create a smile you will LOVE!