Orthodontic treatment is getting more popular with both teens and adults. In fact, a growing number of adults are getting braces for a second time. Why is this the case?

Once you finish up with your braces or aligners, your orthodontist will prescribe a retainer and let you know how often you should wear it. This post-treatment orthodontic maintenance can ensure that your teeth don’t shift out of place over time.

All retainers require a little TLC, and clear retainers are no exception. A good retainer maintenance routine will preserve both your retainer and your beautiful smile!

Read on for our comprehensive guide to cleaning and caring for clear plastic retainers.

Removing Your Retainer

When your braces first come off, your orthodontist will likely ask you to wear your removable retainer as much as possible. This can last from a few months to a year before you can start wearing your retainer exclusively at night. 

Even when you’re expected to wear your retainer around the clock, you’ll still need to take it out a few times a day.

To remove your retainer, wash your hands and use your pointer fingers to pull each side of the retainer straight down (or up, if you have a lower retainer) from the molars. Once the back is disengaged on both sides, you can slide the retainer away from the rest of your teeth. 

Can You Eat or Drink While Wearing Your Retainer?

One benefit of the clear retainer is that it’s less noticeable than the traditional metal retainer. However, the clear plastic can stain if exposed to certain substances, particularly things like chocolate, coffee, or colorful beverages. To avoid staining, always take out your retainer before eating food, chewing gum, or drinking liquids other than plain water. 

Can You Play Sports While Wearing Your Retainer?

If you’re an athlete, you might be wondering what to do with your retainer when you’re at practice or playing on the field. Clear retainers can’t take the place of a high-quality mouthguard when it comes to impact sports. Always make sure to remove your retainer and put in your mouthguard to provide the proper protection for your teeth and prevent chips, cracks, and tooth loss. 

Storing Your Retainer

As you can see, you’ll need to remove your retainer at least a few times a day, even when you’re prescribed full-time wear. It may seem tempting to put that retainer on a napkin or in a pocket, but we always recommend putting it in the storage case provided by your orthodontist.

Because plastic retainers are small and clear, they’re easy to lose, and you’d be surprised how many people have accidentally thrown their retainers away! Any time you’re heading out for the day, be sure to take your storage case with you.

Cleaning Your Retainer

Twice a day, you brush and floss to remove plaque buildup and germs. Since your retainer fits snugly over your teeth, you’re going to want to clean it at least twice a day, as well. If you have kids with clear retainers, you may need to supervise or assist with their retainer maintenance. 

Let’s take a look at daily cleaning, deep cleaning, and a few other retainer maintenance tips that will come in handy.

Daily Cleaning

Plaque is easiest to remove when it’s still soft, so you’re going to want to give your retainer a good rinse in lukewarm water each time you take it out. If you’re out and about, find a restroom and rinse off your retainer using clean hands before placing it in your storage case.

At home, you can get a little more thorough. Each morning and night, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a non-whitening toothpaste or mild dish soap to get rid of plaque. Gently scrub both the inside and outside of the retainer to prevent staining and keep your retainer smelling clean and fresh.

Deep Cleaning

What if you don’t quite get to that plaque before it hardens? From time to time, your retainer will benefit from a deep cleaning, and you can tackle this process with some common household ingredients (or products like RetainerBrite). 

One easy method is to mix one part distilled water with one part white vinegar. Soak your retainer in the mixture for about 20 minutes. Then, use your normal method (a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste or soap) to scrub the softened plaque away before rinsing the retainer in lukewarm water.

Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts

To take the best care of your clear retainer, do:

  • Rinse your retainer often with clean lukewarm tap water
  • Use a separate, soft-bristled toothbrush for your daily cleaning (not the toothbrush you use on your teeth!)
  • Deep clean your clear retainer a few times a month or as needed
  • Use your daily cleaning method to clean your storage case at least once a week

To prevent damage to your clear retainer, don’t:

  • Use chemical-based cleaners like Clorox 
  • Use hot or boiling water to rinse or soak your retainer
  • Clean your retainer with mouthwash
  • Put your retainer in the dishwasher

Following these dos and don’ts can prevent staining and keep odors at bay while also preventing warping and another issue that can make your retainer unusable.

Can You Replace Clear Retainers?

If your retainer is past the point where TLC can help or you’ve lost it, you can replace it. The best thing to do is to contact your orthodontist ASAP and let them know that you need a new one.

Keep in mind that retainers can cost anywhere from $150 to $1200 (although you’re unlikely to get into the higher side of that range). Most insurance policies won’t cover the cost of a replacement retainer, so your best bet is to take good care of it from the start.

Call WGM Ortho for More Answers About Orthodontic Care

Most patients will receive a clear retainer as part of their orthodontic aftercare treatment. Clear retainers can prevent your teeth from shifting back into misalignment, and thorough at-home maintenance can keep them in good condition for years.

WGM Ortho has been providing the best orthodontic care to patients of all ages in Central Kentucky for over 30 years. To ensure that as many patients as possible can access our state-of-the-art treatment, we have opened 20 locations throughout Central Kentucky. Find the location nearest you to partner with committed, caring orthodontists.