Every time you go to get your teeth cleaned at the dentist's office, I'm willing to bet you're asked two questions: "How often do you brush?" and "How often do you floss?" You probably aren't asked how often you clean your retainer, though, so figuring out if you're on the right track can be a little difficult. But, for real, how often should you clean your retainer? Let's just say it might be more often than you'd assume, but don't worry — it's really not that big of a big hassle.
"Retainers (and other mouth appliances) should be cleaned twice a day," Dr. Lee Gause, founder and dentist at Smile Design Manhattan in New York City, tells Elite Daily in an email. "They should be cleaned before putting them in the mouth and after taking them out."
Think about it this way, says Dr. Gause: The bacteria that grows in your mouth while you sleep also grows in your retainer, so whenever you brush your teeth, you should devote the same care to your retainer. Makes sense, right?
But the thing is, a quick rinse definitely isn't going to cut it here, much like just rinsing your teeth with water wouldn't keep them very healthy. Dr. Gause recommends using a retainer cleaner called EverSmile to keep the germs at bay. "This is the first product of its kind, since many existing or previous products were soaks that only focused on cleaning the retainer," he explains, "but this, however, actually does something good for the patient and their teeth, not just for the retainer." In fact, the product helps to whiten your teeth plus it kills 99.999 percent of bacteria, so your mouth is sure to be squeaky clean.
But regular toothpaste or Listerine can also do the trick, says Dr. Sarah Pollan, DDS, MS, an orthodontist at Park Hollow Orthodontics. "Simple brushing with water and toothpaste or Listerine is really the best method for cleaning, as soaks inherently can warp, damage, or alter your retainers," she explains. If you have an electric toothbrush, Dr. Pollan suggests using that to get all the gunk off so that everything stays free of plaque and deposits from saliva. Whether you choose a designated retainer cleaner or good old brushing, do not try to use a denture cleaner, she cautions, because that could lead to corrosion and discoloration.
In addition to the basic twice-a-day cleaning, Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD, chief clinical officer at SmileDirectClub, says it's also a good idea to be mindful of any tiny pieces of food that might be hanging around in hard-to-reach spots. "You should always be sure to eliminate any residual food particles that may be present during cleaning," he explains, so be sure to really get in there.
Just a heads up, though: If your retainer isn't fitting properly, that can actually cause oral problems. According to Dr. Pollan, most removable retainers shouldn't be so big that you have to sleep with your mouth open. But if you find that your retainer is pretty bulky, here's why it could be an issue: "While this is not overly problematic, it can be annoying to wake up with a dry mouth and it isn't good for your oral health," Dr. Pollan tells Elite Daily. "We recommend asking your orthodontist to adjust your retainer so that it doesn't feel as bulky."
Overall, it's always a good idea to check in with your orthodontist (or even your regular dentist) if anything seems off with your retainer, such as signs of excessive wear or even small fractures, Bruce Lein, DDS, a dentist based in Jupiter, Florida, tells Elite Daily. So, at your next appointment, don't be afraid to bring these things up. Besides, it's something to delay the dentist before they stick all that sharp crap in your mouth, right?