Tips on Cleaning Different Types of Retainers

5 min read

You need to take good care of your retainer. Sitting against teeth inside your mouth, your retainer can accumulate tartar, plaque, and bacteria. Cleaning it daily is as important as daily brushing of teeth.

It may be necessary to wear the retainer for some time after braces are removed because the oral environment is not rigid enough to secure teeth in place. Even after the braces realign the teeth to the ideal position, lack of support may cause the teeth to shift again over time.

Retainers ensure the tissues and muscles in your mouth do not shift away from their new, corrected placement. In some cases, someone may need to wear their retainer indefinitely overnight to make sure their teeth stay in place.

Cleaning different types of retainers

To properly clean your retainer, you need to first identify the type, of which there are three.

  • Bonded/fixed retainers are permanent retainers secured to your lower incisors. They are used when there is a high rate of shifting teeth and can stay in the mouth for months to years.
  • Clear plastic retainers such as Vivera and Essix are not visible once you slip them over your teeth. They are easily removable but not durable.
  • Hawley retainers are fitted for your mouth using an acrylic They are held in place by a wire. Hawley retainers are also removable and are the easiest to clean.

Clear plastic and Hawley retainers can be removed and cleaned on a daily basis with the following steps.


  1. As soon as you remove the retainer, clean it while it’s still wet so that it’s easy to remove debris that is yet to harden.
  2. After each meal, brush out the retainer as well as your teeth using lukewarm water.
  3. Mix gentle dish soap with lukewarm water for deeper cleaning. Avoid cleaning the retainer with toothpaste as it is abrasive. Scrub away debris and plaque with a denture brush or a toothbrush.
  4. Ridges and grooves on clear plastic retainers can be cleaned using a cotton swab.
  5. Dental experts at Pure Orthodontics Red Deer recommend asking your dentist before soaking your retainer in a retainer or denture cleaners such as Polident or Efferdent. If they approve, mix one tablet of the cleaner with lukewarm water and ensure you follow the timing instructions on the package.

If you’re unable to remove debris on the retainer, take it to your orthodontist or dentist for them to remove sticky debris and hardened tartar using special solutions.

The cleaning process for bonded or fixed retainers is different. It may seem hard at first, but you’ll eventually be good at it. Below are a few tips.

  1. Use a floss threader or a 6-inch piece of floss to between your incisors.
  2. Make sure the floss gets under your retainer wire and then floss gently.
  3. Floss vertically as well as horizontally for teeth that are attached to the retainer.

If the cleaning process for bonded retainers is too difficult, don’t be shy about asking your orthodontist or dentist for assistance.

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