Dr. Pearl E. Whites
Proper Way to Clean Retainers, Mouth Guards, Night Guards
Updated: Mar 4
This article was spurred on because this dentist has a 16-year old daughter that was cleaning her retainer with toothpaste. When Dentist Dad walked by commenting that was probably the wrong way to clean them, the response was as if her cell phone was thrown in the garbage--likely because the counsel came from "dad." So here it is in writing from a doctor of dental surgery as a credible source--hoping she reads this:
Best Tips to Cleaning and Storing Them Properly
Rinse off with running water to remove saliva and loose debris collected after use
It's recommended to daily brush the inside and outside
Biggest tip: retainers and night guards can be stored in water. This prevents barnacles from forming easily. They can stay in their retainer case without water but they may collect calcifications faster
Deep clean once a week with a cleaning tablet. Drop a tablet in a cup of water then add your appliance(s)--Brite Retainer Cleaner (soak for 15 mins) or Polident (soak for 3 mins). Rinse with a toothbrush under running water. These tablet companies advertise once a day but we recommend for most patients at least once a week. Use the tablets more or less frequently depending on the build up accumulation on your appliance. If you are sick, consider using the tablets daily.
Here are products Do's and Dont's to clean your retainers, night guards, or other removables:
Bleach This will discolor, make your appliance brittle, and break rapidly
Dishwasher Have you seen what a shriveled balloon looks like?
Disinfectant Wipes Besides tasting horrible in the mouth, it's caustic on appliances
Hot/Boiled Water This will warp your appliance
Microwaves If we had to write it that means someone tried it...
Mouthwash Especially those with alcohol, this can denature your appliance
Toothpaste This will scratch and ultimately break your appliance
Cleaning Tablets like Retainer Brite or Polident (yes, they are advertised for dentures but they clean just as well and they only take 3 mins instead of 15 mins to clean)
Liquid hand soap + toothbrush
Make a slurry of water and baking soda + toothbrush
Soak in a 50/50 mix of water + vinegar for 5-20 minutes before scrubbing clean
Regular cleaning removes streptococci bacteria that colonize on your appliance. Why are these calcifications bad? This bacteria commonly causes two things in the mouth: strep throat and the formation of new cavities. Not cleaning them also leads to bad breath--maybe particular 16-year olds should NOT clean their retainers to keep the boys away... Removing debris prolongs the appliance's life, prevents it from collecting plaque, and keeps it fitting properly.