How to Properly Care for A Retainer

Although braces can help create a beautiful smile, that smile won’t stay perfect without wearing a retainer if issued one by your dentist. This device, which is a custom-made piece of metal and plastic, is often needed by dental patients to keep teeth from drifting out of perfect alignment after braces are removed. With the average cost of braces ranging from $3,000 to $7,000 according to Consumer Guide to Dentistry, keeping your teeth straight after removing your braces will be a priority. The use of a retainer and its care will become important so you avoid the need to turn back to costly braces.


An essential part of caring for your retainer is cleaning it routinely and keeping it in a protective case when not in use. Retainers are removable and meant to be taken out when eating, brushing your teeth, or flossing, which makes them easy to misplace. It is common for those who wear a retainer to take it out at the dinner table and place it in a napkin, but this can result in the retainer being thrown away and having no other choice than to purchase a new one.

During Thanksgiving, the risk of throwing away a retainer is greatly increased because people are typically eating much more food more often throughout the day. To prevent this from happening to you, put the retainer back in its protective case as soon as you remove it from your mouth. Don’t wait until after your meal has started because this is often why retainers end up wrapped in a napkin, thrown away and then dug out of the trash by their owners.

If you want to keep your retainer in good shape during the holidays, it’s important to properly clean your device more often than usual. The constant snacking during the holiday season makes it easy for people to forget about or shrug off the hassle of caring for their retainers between meals. If a retainer isn’t cleaned properly and often, an odor will start to develop and bacteria and plaque will quickly build up.

Although retainers can differ in materials such as acrylic and wire or thermoplastic, the process for cleaning is typically the same. A few tips for cleaning your retainer properly this holiday season include:

  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush separate from the one you use to brush your teeth. The gentleness of the toothbrush will prevent scratches or further damage to your device.
  • Apply gentle toothpaste that is formulated specifically for oral accessory cleaning, a denture cleanser, or lathered soap and water to your device when cleaning. Stay away from regular fluoride toothpaste, as it is abrasive and can scratch the plastic and cause discoloration to the retainer due to its soft material. If you choose to use lathered soap and water, use liquid dish detergent with lukewarm water to gently scrub your retainer since too much heat can warp your retainer.
  • Avoid putting your retainer in the dishwasher, in boiling water, in the washing machine, or in direct sunlight, as doing so could cause irreparable damage to the retainer. This is also the case when introducing your retainer to bleach or other harmful chemicals. If your retainer becomes cracked, distorted, or if any wires become loose, contact your orthodontist immediately.

Failing to properly care for your retainer could lengthen the period of your orthodontic treatment, so this holiday season remember to keep track of it, maintain its cleanliness, and always wear it as directed.