How to Clean and Care for an Invisalign Retainer

Keep Your Retainer Clean and Bacteria-Free

clear braces invisalign
What should you know about cleaning your invisalign retainer?. Vasileios Economou/E+/Getty Images

If you've embarked on the orthodontic journey known as Invisalign, then you've been given a series of clear retainers that will guide your teeth to perfection. But achieving the perfect smile isn't as easy as popping in these retainers. Properly caring for Invisalign retainers is absolutely paramount in order to obtain the best results and avoid costly replacement retainers.

How to Clean an Invisalign Retainer

Caring for an Invisalign retainer is easy and only takes a few minutes.

You should get into the habit of cleaning your retainer every time you brush your teeth. In order to properly clean an Invisalign retainer, you will need toothpaste, a toothbrush or retainer brush, and retainer or denture cleaner. Once you've gathered your supplies, it's time to get started.

  1. Rinse the Invisalign retainer under lukewarm water that isn't too hot or too cold.

  2. Apply toothpaste to a soft-bristled toothbrush or retainer brush. Using small, circular motions, gently brush the entire retainer, both inside and out.

  3. Once you have completely brushed the inside and outside of the Invisalign retainer, rinse it again under lukewarm water.

  4. Carefully inspect the retainer for any calcium, or tartar, buildup. Just like your teeth, retainers are susceptible to tartar buildup. It appears as a cloudy, white film on the retainer that is hard to remove with a toothbrush.

  5. If you do notice calcium buildup, soak the retainer in a denture or retainer cleaning solution according to the product's instructions. Invisalign makes the Invisalign Cleaning System that is designed specifically for Invisalign retainers, but any denture or retainer cleansing solution will typically get the job done.

  1. Once you are finished cleaning your Invisalign retainer, you can place it back into your mouth or in a case to dry.

Proper Care Techniques for an Invisalign Retainer

Regular cleansing is only a component of properly caring for your Invisalign retainer. You should clean your retainer every time your brush your teeth and/or floss.

Invisalign retainers can be removed to eat, but any plaque or food particles that are stuck inside the retainer or in your teeth can potentially lead to tooth decay and cause the retainer to smell, so keep it as clean as possible.

Make sure that the cleansing solution you use does not contain any harsh ingredients that could corrode the retainer. It's best to check with your orthodontist and ask for their recommendations. Do not soak your Invisalign retainers in mouthwash. Invisalign retainers are transparent, and because most mouthwashes contain added color, the retainer can absorb the color from the mouthwash, leaving you with a tinted retainer.

It is important to note that because Invisalign retainers are constructed from resin (plastic,) you should avoid rinsing them with warm or hot water. Water that is too warm can distort the retainer's shape, causing it to become ill-fitting. If you have used warm or hot water to clean your retainer in the past, bring it to your orthodontist to ensure that it still fits correctly.

When you are instructed to move on to the next set of retainers, it is advisable to thoroughly clean the previous retainer and store it in its case. There are instances in which people are required to wear a previous retainer.

Ensuring that your Invisalign retainer is stored away clean and bacteria-free will eliminate any odor and residue left on the retainer.

Complications and Problems With Invisalign Retainers

People usually experience less discomfort with Invisalign than traditional tooth aligners (brackets, bands, and archwear,) but if you do experience pain, you should talk with your orthodontist.

Just as mouthwash can stain Invisalign retainers, and warm or hot water can distort its shape, drinking coffee or tea can result in staining and distortion of the plastic.

Perhaps the most common—and expensive—mistake is forgetting to put your retainer back in your mouth after brushing or eating.

You may want to come up with some sort of reminder system to help you remember for those days when you are busy or distracted.

Bottom Line on Cleaning and Caring for Your Invisalign Retainer

Invisalign retainers can be a great way to perfect your smile in an almost invisible way. Taking the time to properly clean your retainer each and every time you brush, avoiding liquids that can distort or stain your retainer, and developing a system to remember to put your retainer back in your mouth after eating or brushing can help ensure you get the results you want with the least hassle and expense.

Sources:

Feinberg, K., Souccar, N., Kau, C. Oster, R. and N. Lawson. Translucency, Stain Resistance, and Hardness of Composites Used for Invisalign Attachments. Journal of Clinical Orthodontics. 2016. 50(3):170-6.

White, D., Julien, K., Jacob, H., Campbell, P., and P. Buschang. Discomfort Associated with Invisalign and Traditional Brackets: A Randomized, Prospective Trial. The Angle Orthodontist. 2017 July 28. (Epub ahead of print).

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