Freshen up your smile: How do you clean retainers

Retainers are essential dental appliances used to keep your teeth aligned after orthodontic treatment. As you wear your retainer daily, plaque and bacteria buildup occur, and retainer hygiene is vital. Cleaning your retainer will ensure that it remains free from bacteria and plaque and will prolong its lifespan. In this article, we will discuss how to clean retainers so that you can freshen up your smile and maintain better oral hygiene.

Why is it Essential to Clean Your Retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that retains the teeth in their corrected positions. It’s worn continually after orthodontic treatment to maintain the alignment of the teeth. Daily wear and the accumulation of bacteria lead to plaque buildup on the retainer, which impairs oral health. Plaque accumulation on your retainer can cause bad breath, discoloration, and health issues such as gum disease and tooth decay. Cleaning your retainer regularly will eliminate these issues and help keep your retainer in good condition for a long time.

How Often Should You Clean Your Retainer?

Keeping your retainer clean is an essential part of maintaining overall dental and oral hygiene. You must clean it regularly to prevent the accumulation of bacteria and plaque, which is harmful to your health. Ideally, you should clean your retainer every day, preferably for a few minutes after brushing your teeth. If you wire a permanent retainer, make sure to floss between your teeth at least once a day. Daily cleaning will help maintain your retainer’s form and shape and prevent bacteria from attacking your teeth and gums.

What Supplies Do You Need for Cleaning Your Retainer?

There are several things you need to have on hand to clean retainers:

  • A soft-bristled toothbrush
  • A non-abrasive toothpaste
  • Retainer cleaner or baking soda
  • A bowl or glass of lukewarm water

How to Clean Your Retainer?

There are various methods for cleaning your retainer, and each method can be effective in its way. Here are some effective ways for cleaning your retainer:

Method 1: Brush with Toothpaste

Using toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush is the most common method for cleaning the retainers. Here are the steps involved:

  • Rinse the retainer under lukewarm water to wet it.
  • Add a pea-sized drop of toothpaste onto your wet retainer.
  • Gently brush the retainer with the toothbrush, paying close attention to the crevices of the retainer. Do not use hot water, as it can damage the retainer.
  • Rinse the retainer thoroughly under lukewarm water to remove any toothpaste residue.

Method 2: Soak with Retainer Cleaner

Soaking your retainer with a retainer cleaner is another effective way to remove bacteria and plaque buildup from the retainer. Here are the steps involved:

  • Mix a solution of equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide or retainer cleaner and pour it into a bowl or glass.
  • Soak the retainer in the solution for 15-20 minutes. You can also soak the retainer overnight once a week for deep cleaning.
  • Rinse your retainer several times under lukewarm water to remove any solution residue.

Method 3: Soak with Baking Soda

Baking soda is another readily available and safe option for cleaning retainers. Here are the steps involved:

  • Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a cup of lukewarm water in a small bowl or glass.
  • Place the retainer in the mixture and allow it to soak for 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove the retainer from the baking soda solution and rinse with lukewarm water.

What Should You Avoid While Cleaning Your Retainer?

Several things can damage your retainer while attempting to clean them. Here are the things to avoid while cleaning your retainer:

  • Hot Water: Do not use hot water to clean or soak your retainer. It can distort and damage the retainer’s shape.
  • Harsh Chemicals: Avoid harsh chemicals such as bleach or other solvents for cleaning your retainer.
  • Alcohol-based mouthwash: Avoid using mouthwash to clean your retainer because it can dry out and damage the plastic of the retainer.

How to Store Your Retainer?

Proper storage of the retainer is essential to help maintain its form and prevent the accumulation of bacteria. Here are some tips on how to store your retainer:

  • Cleanliness: Ensure that the retainer is dried and clean before storing it away.
  • Storage Case: Keep your retainer in its storage case when not in use. It prevents contamination and unnecessary bending, thereby extending the life of your retainer.
  • Avoid Heat: Don’t expose your retainer to excessive heat. It may distort and damage the retainer.


Regular cleaning of your retainer is essential for keeping your teeth aligned, maintaining oral hygiene, and prolonging its usability. There are several cleaning methods available, and taking the time to clean your retainer regularly will positively impact your oral health. Follow the cleaning methods outlined above, avoiding harmful chemical treatments, to keep your retainer in tip-top shape.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. How do you keep your retainer clean during travel?

A1. You can keep your retainer clean by packing it in its storage case and using pre-moistened wipes intended for retainer cleaning. If possible, rinse your retainer under running warm water or brush it with toothpaste regularly.

Q2. Can I use bleach to clean my retainer?

A2. No, Do not use bleach or other harsh chemicals to clean your retainer as they can damage the plastic and metal components, causing them to deteriorate over time.

Q3. Can I wear my retainer while cleaning it?

A3. No, do not wear your retainer while cleaning it. Food particles, toothpaste, and cleaning agents can all adhere to the retainer, causing oral health problems like gingivitis, bad breath, and cavities.

Q4. How can I make cleaning my retainer a part of my daily routine?

A4. Making cleaning your retainer a habit is as simple as creating a daily routine. Brushing your teeth and cleaning your retainer should be done every day. You can add a reminder on your phone to clean your retainer at the same time every day.

Q5. Can I still use my retainer if it’s damaged?

A5. If you feel like something is wrong with your retainer or notice any damage, seek help from an orthodontist. Wearing a damaged retainer can hurt you and impede the alignment of your teeth.


1. Mayo Clinic (2021), How to clean retainers and other removable dental devices, Retrieved from

2. Dental Health Society (2021), How to clean retainers, Retrieved from

3. Healthline (2021), How to clean and care for your retainer, Retrieved from

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