Caring for your retainer

16 May, 2016

After finally getting your braces off, it’s important to remember to wear a retainer. When the teeth are moved, the ligaments connecting the tooth to the jawbone are stretched or compressed – making them likely to spring back towards their original position once the force of the braces is removed. A retainer will keep your teeth in their new, straight position until this happens.

Retainers are typically worn full-time for a number of months, and this much time in the mouth can lead to a buildup of plaque, bacteria, calcium deposits and other problems. Keeping your retainer clean is an ongoing process, but with a few simple tips your retainer and your smile will stay in great shape for longer.


Long-term exposure to the inside of your mouth means that bacteria and plaque can build up quickly on a retainer, just like they would on your teeth if you didn’t brush. We recommend rinsing your retainer every time you remove it from your mouth. In addition to this, you should give it a proper clean at least once a day to avoid anything nasty building up.


There are a few ways you can clean a retainer. Some of the more common advice includes:

  • Cleaning it while still wet, to avoid any plaque or calcification solidifying.
  • For visible plaque buildup on the retainer, use water or dishwashing liquid and a soft brush to gently remove it, then rinse. Don’t use abrasive solutions like toothpaste, especially for wire retainers. For plastic retainers, a cotton bud may be easier to get to the smaller grooves.
  • For invisible plaque, soaking the retainer in denture solution should keep it fresh for the next time you wear it. A bad-smelling retainer is the easiest warning sign of invisible plaque.


Retainers should not be exposed to excessive heat or dryness. Hot water and heated surfaces will warp or melt a plastic retainer, and leaving it out in the air to dry will make it more likely to crack or break.

Try to keep your retainer in its case when transporting it (after rinsing it of course!), and soak it in water when not in use to stop it from cracking or getting dirty.


It can be really easy to misplace a retainer, so extra care should be taken to avoid this – you don’t want to keep paying for replacements! Here are some useful tips for keeping track of your retainer:

  • Don’t wrap it in a napkin or tissue while you eat – you’re much more likely to forget it’s there and throw it out with the rest of your rubbish.
  • Keep your retainer case in the same place while at home, so you always know it’s there.
  • Try not to store it in your pocket. Not only is it more likely to get broken, but if you forget about it and it goes through the washing machine it will warp out of shape.

If you have any questions about caring for your retainer after braces or would like to know more about why you need a retainer, book a consultation with Dr. Daniel at Solas Orthodontics today!