retainer brite instructions

Retainer Brite Instructions: How to Clean and Maintain Your Retainer

Fred Bahnson 


Retainers play a crucial role in maintaining the alignment of your teeth after braces. They require regular cleaning to prevent the buildup of bacteria, plaque, and tartar. In this guide, we will discuss the different types of retainers, provide instructions on how to clean them, and share essential tips for proper retainer care.

Types of Retainers

There are three main types of retainers:

1. Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are made of acrylic and customized to fit your mouth. They feature a wire component that helps keep the retainer in place. Hawley retainers are removable, making them easy to clean.

2. Clear Plastic Retainers

Also known as Essix, Vivera, or clear aligners, clear plastic retainers are virtually invisible. They are made of transparent plastic and slip over your teeth. While they are less durable than Hawley retainers, they are still removable and require regular cleaning.

3. Fixed or Bonded Retainers

Fixed or bonded retainers, also called permanent retainers, are attached to the lower front teeth. These retainers are recommended for individuals at high risk of teeth shifting. Unlike the other types, you cannot remove this retainer, and it remains in place for months or even years.

Cleaning Your Retainer

The cleaning process for your retainer depends on its type:

Hawley and Clear Plastic Retainers

For both Hawley and clear plastic retainers, follow these steps:

  1. Clean your retainer immediately after removing it from your mouth while it’s still wet. This makes it easier to remove any debris before it hardens.
  2. Brush your retainer with lukewarm water after every meal. It’s advisable to brush your teeth simultaneously.
  3. For a more thorough cleaning, create a solution of lukewarm water and mild dish soap. Avoid toothpaste as it can be abrasive and potentially scratch the retainer’s surface. Gently scrub the retainer with a soft toothbrush or denture brush to remove plaque and debris.
  4. Use a cotton swab to reach the deeper grooves and ridges of clear plastic retainers, if necessary.
  5. Consult your dentist or orthodontist about soaking your retainer in a denture or retainer cleaner, such as Efferdent or Polident. If soaking is recommended, follow the package instructions regarding duration and dilution.

In case you encounter stubborn tartar or debris that won’t come off, it’s best to consult your dentist or orthodontist for specialized solutions.

Fixed or Bonded Retainers

To clean a fixed retainer, regular flossing is essential. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a 6-inch piece of floss and use a floss threader to insert it between your two front lower teeth.
  2. Hold one end of the floss with your fingers and the other with the threader.
  3. Once the floss is under the retainer wire, gently move it up and down between the teeth, ensuring it reaches the gum line. If possible, carefully guide the floss below the gum line.
  4. Slide the floss sideways to the next area and repeat the process for each tooth connected to the permanent retainer.
  5. If you struggle with flossing, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from your dentist or orthodontist, who can provide guidance and additional tips.

Essential Tips for Retainer Care

Consider the following tips to ensure optimal care for your removable retainer:

  1. Avoid Heat: Keep your retainer away from sources of high heat, such as boiling water, microwaves, dishwashers, washers, dryers, and the dashboard of your car. Always wash your retainer in lukewarm water.
  2. Skip Harsh Chemicals: Harsh cleansers are unnecessary for maintaining a clean retainer. Studies have shown that simple brushing with lukewarm water is as effective as using chemical cleaning tablets. However, if you prefer using tablets, avoid soaking a Hawley retainer for too long, as it may damage the metal components. Mouthwash can be used occasionally for a quick soak, but be cautious with alcohol-containing mouthwash, as it can harm the retainer’s plastic.
  3. Time Your Soak: If you choose to soak your retainer with cleaning tablets, follow the instructions provided and avoid exceeding the recommended duration. A mouthwash soak can help freshen your retainer’s smell and eliminate some bacteria when mixed with lukewarm water.
  4. Clean Your Case: Regularly clean your retainer case to prevent the accumulation of bacteria. Wash it once a day with warm, soapy water, ensuring you scrub all surfaces before rinsing and patting it dry.
  5. Be Mindful: Keep your retainer away from pets to prevent chewing or choking incidents. Additionally, be cautious about where you place your retainer while eating to avoid accidental loss or disposal.
  6. Replace as Needed: Retainers experience wear and tear over time, similar to contact lenses or shoes. Depending on the type, your retainer may need replacement after a certain period. Essix retainers typically last six months to a few years, while well-maintained Hawley retainers can last 5 to 10 years. If you notice excessive dirt, signs of wear, or an improper fit, contact your orthodontist for a replacement.

Consequences of Neglecting Retainer Cleaning

Neglecting proper retainer cleaning can lead to the accumulation of bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Over time, your retainer may develop an unpleasant odor or taste. Harmful bacteria, including Streptococcus and Candida albicans, can thrive on a dirty retainer and potentially cause infections or other health issues. If you notice any concerning symptoms, such as redness, swelling, or unusual sensations in your mouth, consult your doctor promptly.


Cleaning your retainer is vital for maintaining good oral hygiene. Remember to clean your retainer daily using lukewarm water and mild dish soap. The information provided in this article serves as general guidance, so it’s advisable to consult your dentist or orthodontist for specific care instructions tailored to your retainer type.