Tips on How to Take Care of a Retainer Properly

how to take care of a retainer | retainer care

If you’ve recently had braces removed or finished your treatment with aligners, congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of your active orthodontic treatment and have a smile that you are proud to show off now. But before you get too excited, there’s still one more important step to remember: wearing your retainer.

As we have talked about in our in-depth article on retainers, these maintenance appliances are an essential part of any orthodontic treatment plan. They help preserve the hard-earned results of your braces and ensure that your teeth stay in their ideal position. They may not be the most glamorous accessory, but retainers are an extremely important piece of the puzzle when it comes to your orthodontic health. 

That’s why it’s so important to properly care for them, no matter what type of retainer you have. Without proper care and maintenance, they may not be able to do their job, and your teeth may start to shift back to their original misaligned position. 

In this article, we break down what you need to know about how to take care of a retainer properly. From tips for storage to cleaning techniques, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get the most out of your retainer.


Retainer Care 101: 12 Top Tips for Proper Retainer Care

There are some easy things to keep in mind that will help keep your retainers protected, avoid them getting lost, and keep them as clean as possible. Here are 12 tips on how to take care of a retainer properly:

Store Your Retainer Properly

Of course, for the best results, a retainer should be in your mouth as much as your orthodontist has prescribed. But, when it is not in use, make sure to store it in a safe place, ideally a retainer case or other hard plastic box. This will help keep it protected and away from dirt and bacteria.


Keep Your Retainer Out of Reach of Pets

The scientific theory is that animals, especially dogs, are attracted to the smell of the materials that retainers are made out of, as well as saliva. So, don’t give them the opportunity to turn your retainers into a new chew toy. Make sure to keep them out of reach of pets at all times.

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Source: Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca

Don’t Wrap Your Retainer in Napkins When Eating Out

If you are eating out and don’t have your retainer case, don’t wrap your retainer in napkins and set it on the table while you are eating. Doing so creates an easy opportunity for it to accidentally get thrown away. So, try to always make sure that you have the retainer case with you for proper storage when your retainer is out of your mouth.


Avoid Letting Your Retainer Get Hot

Never leave your retainer in direct sunlight (like on a windowsill), in a hot vehicle, or in hot water, as this can cause the plastic to warp/melt and become uncomfortable. The only way your retainer will work is if it fits properly!


Avoid Unnecessary Damage

To prevent damaging your retainer, do not chew on it and try not to drop it onto hard surfaces. Both of these things can bend the retainer out of its proper shape.


Be Careful When Putting In & Taking Out the Retainer

It’s also important to be gentle when putting in or removing your retainer(s). When taking it out, gently loosen it in several places to ease it off your teeth. You do not want to pull it off totally from one side or twist it with your tongue. Doing so may cause it to bend improperly. Then when putting it back in, take the same amount of care to gently push it back in straight. 


Inspect Your Retainer Often

Regularly inspect your retainer for cracks, breaks, bent metal, or any other damage. If you notice any signs of damage, make sure to take it into your orthodontist as soon as possible.


Regularly Clean Your Retainer 

It is important to clean your retainer regularly to avoid bacteria build-up. Use warm water and a toothbrush to gently brush the retainer and remove any plaque, tartar, and food debris that has accumulated. Do not brush a retainer with toothpaste. Many kinds of toothpaste are too abrasive for the surface of a retainer, causing scratches that make it even more difficult to keep it properly clean.

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Soak Your Retainer Periodically

Routinely soaking your retainer(s) for 10 to 15 minutes will help ensure that it stays as clean as possible, killing bacteria and removing any odors. You can use a retainer cleaner, which comes in tablet or liquid form, or you can easily make your own cleaning solution by combining 10 parts of water with 1 part of sodium hypochlorite.


Thoroughly Rinse Your Retainer

Always rinse your retainer with cool water before and after each use to remove any excess saliva and food debris.


Visit Your Orthodontist Routinely

Routine checkups with your orthodontist are still important during the maintenance/retention phase of your orthodontic treatment. To ensure that your teeth stay in their proper positions, you should keep up with regular visits to have your retainer(s) inspected and adjusted if needed. 


Replace Your Retainer If Needed

Even the best retainers can eventually wear out. If you notice that your retainer is deteriorating, has been damaged, or is fitting differently, contact your orthodontist as soon as possible. Replacing your retainer when needed is an important part of maintaining your straight, beautiful smile.


Proper Retainer Care is Essential to Maintaining a Straight Smile

Understanding how to take care of a retainer properly is essential for its longevity and maintaining good oral hygiene. Without proper care, bacteria and plaque can build up on your retainer(s) and cause staining, a buildup of tartar, and bad breath. 

In addition, improper care can cause the retainer to become warped or brittle and even break, rendering it useless. When consciously taken care of, a retainer can last for years, helping to maintain the results of your orthodontic treatment and preserving your beautiful smile.

Have questions about proper retainer care or anything else related to orthodontic treatment? The expert team here at Cook & Gutsche Orthodontics is here to help! When you need a top orthodontist in Springfield, PA, you can count on us to help you achieve the straight, confident smile that you deserve.

Contact us today with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment!