Summer is just around the corner, bringing sunshine, warmer weather, and unfortunately, a greater chance of bacterial overgrowth on dental apparatus. Since bacteria thrive in warm, moist conditions and can be transmitted through food, a retainer is
1. Freshen up with water: Don’t have time for a full cleaning? If your retainer feels dirty while you’re out and about, try swishing some water around your mouth a few times. Staying hydrated, which is especially important in warmer weather, can help prevent bacterial overgrowth. It is also helpful in combatting a dry mouth, which has been linked to tooth decay. Remember to remove your retainer before enjoying a sugary beverage, or avoid the hassle and choose water, instead.
2. Brush it: Use a toothbrush and a non-whitening toothpaste to gently clean the retainer, and then rinse it thoroughly before storing it or putting it in your mouth. This should be done as often as you brush your teeth. If the retainer looks cloudy, has white spots on it, carries a bad odor or taste, or hasn’t been cleaned in over a week, it’s definitely time to clean it. You’d never go a week without brushing your teeth and the same should apply to your retainer.
3. Store it: Store your retainer in a case when you aren’t using it. If a case is unavailable, you can use a damp paper towel as a temporary solution to soak it. Retainers that are dried out are more likely to be damaged, so this ensures your retainer will last a long time and won’t break or lose its shape. Your retainer can also be soaked in denture-cleaning liquid, which can sometimes cause it to have a slight odor or taste. If this is bothersome, it can be eradicated by a quick water rinse.
4. Alternative methods: White vinegar, Castille soap, and mouthwash are all gentle disinfectants that can be used to clean your retainer. If you are unsure which option is best for you, ask your orthodontist or dental provider to recommend a retainer cleaner that is suited to your individual needs.
5. Set a reminder: Consistency is key. If you have a hard time remembering to clean your retainer, try setting a reminder in your phone or sticking a note to your bathroom mirror so you remember to clean it each night and morning. It takes a few weeks to form a new habit, but doing it in the same place at the same time every day will help establish a pattern of behavior that will stick in your mind. Soon, you won’t need the reminder. It only takes a few minutes, and your teeth will thank you.