We all know the importance of brushing our teeth to keep bacteria away in order to preserve the health of our teeth. But many who wear clear aligners or retainers to help keep teeth straight may not know that they also need to keep bacteria away from these appliances to keep their teeth healthy. Retainers are commonly instructed to be worn after having braces to correct one’s bite so that the teeth do not shift out of the correct position over time. Beware of the myth: Retainers are bacteria-free so long as you brush your teeth twice a day and do not eat with the retainer on. The truth is that bacteria and plaque can easily accumulate on your retainer whether eating or not, and it is therefore recommended to clean retainers every time you brush your teeth. Here are some ways you can keep your retainer clean, some interesting new research, and what can happen if you don't clean your retainer:
"What signs indicate that my retainer isn't clean?"
If your retainer hasn't been cleaned regularly, you may start to notice a smell or bad taste from the retainer. You may also start seeing a cloudy film on the retainer or white spots, which could indicate tartar/mineral buildup that can cause dental cavities. Retainers may even break or crack due to bacteria.
"How should I clean my retainer?"
Be sure to drink plenty of water, which can help prevent bacterial growth, dry mouth, and damage to the retainer. Acidic drinks like soda and sports drinks can negatively impact not only your teeth, but your retainer also!
Retainers should be cleaned with a soft-brisltled toothbrush, every time you brush your teeth. In addition you can use a cotton swab to clean deep grooves and ridges. Check with your dentist about soaking your retainer for about 20 minutes or the instructed amount of time in a denture or retainer cleaner, for instance Efferdent or Polident. Rinsing with non-alcoholic mouthwash and cold for about 3 minutes can also help fight bacteria found on the retainer. Make sure to avoid placing your retainer in hot temperature water because it can distort the retainer. Also, gently scrub and clean your retainer case, which can harbor bacteria.
"What if I don't clean my retainer?"
If you don’t clean your retainer, it will become the home of bacteria including Streptococcus that can breakdown your enamel. In addition, the opportunistic pathogen, Candida albicans, a yeast which is normally found within the mouth may cause an infection known as oral thrush. These infections may negatively impact your health particularly if you are immunocompromised.
Researchers are now looking at additional ways to help fight the bacteria that are wearing down tooth enamel and the plastics in retainers. Published in May 2018 in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, researchers created a layered film with stronger materials that are hydrophilic (love water) and applied it to dental retainers, which helped prevent the bacteria from sticking to the retainers. They found that the growth of bacteria went down by 75%.
Overall, it is important to know that keeping a clean retainer is equally as important as keeping your teeth clean!
Feel free to contact Drs. Ali & Aliand their newest addition to the team, Dr. Zarah Ali, if you have any thoughts or concerns. Your little ones and teens are welcome to visit our pediatric dentist Dr. Van. Dr. Emadis happy to help with your orthodontic needs. For wisdom teeth extractions or any other periodontal or oral surgery needs, Dr. Ghaziwould be more than willing to help.