Learn How to Clean Your Retainer the Right Way

Congratulations! Your braces are finally off. 

That calls for a celebration.

But as much as you’d like your orthodontic journey to end, it’s important to note that you will have to wear a retainer to preserve your gorgeous smile.

Most importantly, you need to keep it clean.

Your retainer will sit inside your mouth – against your teeth. 

Initially, you may be required to wear your retainer for more than 22 hours each day (unless you were treated with aligners, in that case, you’ll only need to wear them at night). 

But as time passes, the number of hours will eventually reduce. 

And just like bacteria, plaque, and tartar that build up on teeth, they will build up on your retainer as well – if you don’t clean them daily.

Therefore, it’s of critical importance to clean your retainer every single day. 

Cleaning your retainer is as crucial as brushing your teeth daily, and you need to do it right. 

In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to keep your retainers clean. But before we learn how to do that, we need to gain insights into the different kinds of retainers that exist. That’s because the cleaning process varies for different types – which is why it makes sense to identify the type of retainer you have.

The Different Types of Retainers

Following are the three different kinds of retainers:

  • Hawley Retainers
  • Clear Plastic Retainers
  • Fixed or Bonded Retainers

Hawley Retainers

Here’s what Hawley Retainers look like:


Hawley retainers use a combination of acrylic plate or hard plastic and a thin metal wire. This type of retainer will be molded to your mouth – with the wire settled against your top or bottom front teeth.

Hawley retainers are removable and easy to clean.

Clear Plastic Retainers

Here’s what Clear Plastic Retainers look like:


Clear plastic retainers are made up of high-quality transparent plastic. Don’t worry if you’re walking down the street with a wide smile on your face – these retainers are barely noticeable. 

These retainers will easily slip over your teeth and you won’t face a hard time cleaning them. 

Fixed or Bonded Retainers

Here’s what the Fixed or Bonded Retainers look like:

These retainers are not removable and are attached to the lower, but sometimes also the upper, front teeth. Usually, orthodontists will recommend these retainers if there’s a high risk of your teeth moving back to their original position. Fixed or bonded retainers contain a solid wire that’s curved to fit your newly straightened teeth shape. This wire will be cemented to the inside of your teeth to prevent them from moving back to their original position.

Now that we’re familiar with the different kinds, let’s understand how to clean your retainer correctly.

How to Clean Your Retainer?

This section comprises the following subsections:

  • How to Clean Removable Retainers?
  • How to Clean Non-Removable / Permanent Retainers?

How to Clean Removable Retainers? –
Hawley & Clear Plastic Retainers

Follow these steps to clean your Hawley or clear plastic retainer:

  • Remove the retainer from your mouth. You need to clean it as soon as you remove it – while it’s wet. This will help you brush off any debris before it hardens.
  • Now, brush out your retainer with lukewarm water. We’d advise you to do this after every meal.
  • You may mix lukewarm water with mild dish soap for deeper cleaning. Use a denture brush to brush off plaque and other debris gently. Or a soft toothbrush may work as well.
  • Consider cleaning your clear plastic retainer with a cotton swab – this will help you reach the deepest grooves as well as ridges.

You may even soak your retainer in a retainer or denture cleaner. But before you do that, we’d advise you to consult with your orthodontist. And if you find any debris not coming off, schedule an appointment with your orthodontist. 

How to Clean Non-Removable Retainers? –
Fixed or Bonded Retainers

Follow these steps to clean your fixed or bonded retainer:

  • Such retainers are permanently attached to your teeth. And since you can’t remove your retainer, the best way to clean it is by flossing it daily. 
  • Get a 6-inch piece of floss.
  • With a floss threader, thread the floss between two front lower teeth.
  • Hold one end of the floss with the threader and the other with your fingers.
  • Upon getting the floss under the retainer wire, move it up and down all the way to the gum line. 
  • Once you clean one area, you need to repeat the process for other areas.
  • Repeat until you clean each tooth attached with your permanent retainer.

Flossing may turn out to be tedious and complicated. Feel free to reach out to your orthodontist to learn how to clean your fixed or bonded retainers efficiently. 

Clean Your Retainer Daily!

Just like brushing your teeth daily is important, it’s equally important to clean your retainer every single day – that’s because if you don’t, it will keep collecting plaque, bacteria, and tartar from your mouth.

And if you don’t clean it regularly, it may start to smell or taste bad.

Also, upon not cleaning it daily, your retainer may even harbor dangerous bacteria – which may, in turn, result in illness or cause an infection.

And if you need any help, schedule a free consultation with our orthodontic specialists today. 

Don’t wait around!

Visit the #1 orthodontists in Ellicott City & Columbia today.



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