Maintaining Clean and Healthy Retainers: Insights and Tips for a Radiant Smile


Once your orthodontic journey with braces or clear aligners comes to an end, you could be quite relieved to bid farewell to the hassle of ortho wax, aligner chewies, and aligner removal tools. However, there’s one more essential component you shouldn’t forget – your retainer. Maintaining a clean and hygienic retainer is crucial for your oral health and the success of your orthodontic treatment. Tartar, the white buildup on retainers, forms from a mix of plaque and calcium deposits. If you don’t clean your retainer regularly, tartar can develop, leading to issues like bad breath, stains, cavities, and gum problems. In this article, we’ll explore why tartar builds up on retainers and provide practical tips for cleaning and taking care of your retainer. By following these steps, you’ll ensure a healthy and vibrant smile as you continue your orthodontic journey.

White Residues on Your Retainers

The white buildup you notice on your retainer is a combination of plaque and calcium deposits known as “tartar.” Plaque begins to form when bacteria, food particles, and saliva amalgamate on the retainer’s surface. Without consistent cleaning, this plaque solidifies into tartar, manifesting as a white or yellowish appearance.

Dealing with tartar necessitates more than just regular cleaning techniques such as brushing or soaking. Neglected tartar buildup can lead to a range of concerns, including halitosis, discoloration, and potential dental complications like cavities and gum issues.

Swiftly addressing tartar accumulation on your retainer is crucial for sustaining good oral hygiene and preserving your retainer’s quality. Here’s how you can effectively manage it:

  • Avoid abrasive actions: Refrain from attempting to scrape or scratch tartar off your retainer using sharp objects. This can compromise the retainer’s surface integrity, reducing its efficacy and potentially creating spaces for additional plaque buildup.
  • Opt for retainer soaking: Consider soaking your retainer in a specialized retainer cleaning solution or a denture cleaning tablet. These products are formulated to break down and eliminate tartar and other deposits without causing harm to the retainer’s material.
  • Brush gently: Employ a toothbrush with soft bristles to gently cleanse your retainer, with special attention to areas marked by tartar buildup. Steer clear of using toothpaste, as some variants contain abrasive components that might damage the retainer.
  • Seek professional assistance: If tartar buildup persists or proves challenging to remove, it’s wise to consult your orthodontist or dental expert for a professional cleaning. Their proficiency and suitable tools ensure safe and effective retainer cleaning without risking damage.

To prevent future tartar buildup, adhere to a routine retainer cleaning regimen. Follow the cleaning method recommended by your orthodontist or retainer provider, and promptly seek professional guidance if you encounter issues related to tartar or other deposits.

Tips to clean your retainers

Safeguarding your oral health requires diligent retainer cleaning. Here are some tips on how to clean your retainers.

Fizzy 3-in-1 Foam Retainer Cleaner

If you wear retainers and want a simple way to keep your oral health in check, consider using Fizzy’s 3-in-1 retainer cleaner. It’s a great choice for cleaning your retainers effectively and conveniently. This special cleaner has many benefits, which is why it’s considered the top option for cleaning retainers. It works well with popular clear aligner brands like Invisalign, Bite, Smile Direct Club, and Candid. It’s also suitable for different types of retainers, including Essix/clear retainers and Hawley retainers. The best part is that Fizzy’s foam cleaner is gentle and doesn’t contain alcohol, parabens, fluoride, hydrogen peroxide, or artificial colors, so it’s safe for people with sensitive gums.

Using Fizzy’s retainer cleaner is easy. Just put a bit of foam on your retainer and let it sit for a short while. Then rinse your retainer with water to get rid of any leftover foam. If you want a deeper clean, you can use a soft-bristle brush to gently clean all the parts of the retainer. What’s more, Fizzy’s retainer cleaner can also work as a mouthwash and breath freshener, adding extra convenience to your daily oral care routine. It’s also travel-friendly, so you can keep your retainers clean even when you’re on the go. Fizzy’s foam cleaner is a great way to make sure your retainers last longer and your smile stays healthy and bright.

Denture Cleaning Solutions

Denture cleaning tablets offer a potent solution for eradicating bacteria, discoloration, and plaque accumulation from your retainer, mirroring their effectiveness with dentures. To employ this method, begin by filling a container with warm water. Drop a denture cleaning tablet into the water, allowing it to effervesce. Submerge your retainers in the solution, letting them soak for the advised duration, usually around 15-30 minutes. After soaking, ensure a thorough rinse to eliminate any residue before reinserting the retainers into your mouth. Denture cleaning tablets are a practical and efficient choice for upholding the sanitation and hygiene of your retainers.

However, while denture cleaning tablets exhibit effectiveness, it’s prudent to acknowledge potential downsides. Some individuals might experience sensitivity to the chemicals in these tablets, leading to discomfort or irritation if insufficiently rinsed. Additionally, while these tablets are generally suitable for routine cleaning, their effectiveness against persistent stains or deeply ingrained debris on retainers might be limited. For optimal outcomes, it’s advisable to consistently adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions and seek personalized advice from your orthodontist.

Baking Soda

Using baking soda as a cleaning method for retainers comes with its share of pros and cons. On the positive side, baking soda offers a gentle and safe cleaning approach that’s suitable for various types of retainers. It’s also cost-effective, since it’s a common household item. Furthermore, baking soda has the advantage of neutralizing odors, leaving your retainer with a fresh, clean feel. It’s a natural cleaning agent that doesn’t involve harsh chemicals. However, there are limitations to keep in mind. Baking soda might not be as effective when dealing with stubborn stains or deep discoloration. Its cleaning process involves manual brushing, which can be time-intensive. Additionally, baking soda lacks strong antimicrobial properties, so it’s not a comprehensive disinfectant. While baking soda works well for routine retainer cleaning and is generally safe, it might not be the best choice for more demanding cleaning tasks.

To use baking soda, create a paste by mixing it with water to achieve a thick consistency. Gently brush your retainer using a soft-bristled toothbrush or one specifically designed for cleaning retainers, ensuring you cover all surfaces both inside and outside. Thoroughly rinse your retainer with water to remove any remaining baking soda residue. Remember to be gentle while brushing to prevent any potential damage to the material, as baking soda is typically considered a safe option.

Hydrogen Peroxide

When it comes to using hydrogen peroxide for retainer cleaning, there are both benefits and potential concerns to consider. On the positive side, hydrogen peroxide boasts strong antimicrobial properties, effectively tackling bacteria and promoting improved oral hygiene. It’s also capable of effectively combating stubborn stains, revitalizing your retainer’s appearance. Its widespread availability and affordability make it an appealing choice. However, using it requires caution due to the potential for certain retainer materials to be adversely affected. Proper dilution is crucial to prevent any negative outcomes, and excessive use might cause the retainer to become brittle or degrade. Additionally, some individuals might experience mild irritation or sensitivity. To ensure safe and effective use, it’s advisable to consult your orthodontist before incorporating hydrogen peroxide into your retainer cleaning routine.


For effective aligner cleaning, dilute hydrogen peroxide with water at a 1:3 ratio to reduce its strength and minimize potential risks. Avoid prolonged exposure of your aligners to hydrogen peroxide, as this might weaken or damage the material. Opt for a brief soak or rinse instead, adhering to the duration recommended by your orthodontist or retainer provider. After cleaning, make sure to thoroughly rinse your aligners with water to remove any lingering hydrogen peroxide. Avoid excessive use of hydrogen peroxide, as using it too frequently can result in brittleness and material degradation in your aligners. Following the recommended cleaning intervals is key to maintaining their integrity and upholding good oral hygiene.

How Often Should I Clean Retainers?

Cleaning your retainers on a daily basis is essential for maintaining optimal oral hygiene and preventing the accumulation of harmful bacteria. Regular cleaning helps ward off plaque buildup, bad breath, and potential oral health concerns. It also ensures that your retainers maintain their proper positioning, effectively supporting teeth alignment throughout your orthodontic treatment journey.

In the event of illness, it’s crucial to clean your retainers promptly once you’ve recovered. Illness can leave behind harmful bacteria and germs on your retainers, which could lead to reinfection or oral health issues if not effectively cleaned.

Performing a thorough deep cleaning for your retainer at least once a week is recommended. While daily cleaning is fundamental, a deep cleaning targets persistent plaque, tartar, and debris that regular cleaning might overlook. This comprehensive cleaning routine guarantees that your retainer remains fresh and devoid of harmful bacteria.


Knowing When to Replace Your Retainer

While you might be diligently caring for your retainers, it’s important to recognize that they have a finite lifespan, even though they need to be worn long-term. Being aware of when it’s time to replace your retainer is vital for maintaining proper oral health and the effectiveness of your orthodontic treatment. Keep an eye out for these indicators that suggest a replacement is due:

  • Cracks or damage: Visible cracks or damage can compromise the retainer’s ability to securely hold your teeth, potentially leading to teeth shifting and oral issues.
  • Wear and tear: Over time, the retainer’s material can deteriorate, causing it to lose shape and effectiveness, thereby diminishing its ability to maintain teeth alignment.
  • Poor fit: If the retainer feels excessively tight or loose, it may no longer align properly with your teeth, warranting a replacement for correct alignment.
  • Unpleasant odor or taste: An unpleasant smell or taste from the retainer indicates a buildup of bacteria or plaque, signaling the need for a replacement to ensure proper oral hygiene.
  • Discoloration: Noticeable yellowing or discoloration of the retainer material can weaken it and may indicate bacterial buildup, prompting replacement for the sake of your oral health.

In Summary

The white buildup on your retainer consists of plaque and calcium deposits known as tartar. Neglecting regular cleaning can cause this plaque to harden into tartar, resulting in issues like bad breath, discoloration, and potential dental problems like cavities or gum concerns. To address tartar buildup, avoid using sharp objects to scrape the retainer. Instead, opt for specialized retainer cleaning solutions or denture cleaning tablets for soaking. Employ a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently clean the retainer and consider professional cleaning if necessary. Sustaining consistent cleaning practices is essential to prevent future tartar buildup and maintain a fresh and effective retainer for supporting proper oral hygiene.



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