More and more people use a removable orthodontic appliance, like Invisalign, to align crooked teeth. Those who have had traditional braces often use a removable appliances, like a retainer, to maintain alignment after braces are removed. But don’t just give your appliance a swift rinse or soak in a tray at the end of the day. Proper cleaning and care is important to preserve your oral health. Just as plaque accumulates on teeth, it can also accumulate on an orthodontic appliance. Follow these Dougherty Orthodontics approved tips for caring for a removable orthodontic appliance.
Know Your Appliance: All orthodontic professionals advise routine cleaning of removable appliances. It’s important to know the type of retainer in use. Some cleaning procedures will differ according to appliance type:
- Hawley Retainer: Acrylic appliance featuring a wire, that is molded to fit your mouth.
- Clear Plastic Retainer: These retainers are invisible. They are not as durable as an acrylic Hawley retainer so require gentler cleaning.
Common Cleaning Methods: Invisible and acrylic appliances share these cleaning methods in common:
- Before cleaning, remove and rinse appliance. It is important to rinse while still moist with saliva, in order to remove debris before it dries and hardens into a difficult to remove crust.
- Morning, before bedtime, and after each meal, brush your appliance with a soft bristle toothbrush, or denture brush. Use a gentle cleanser, like dish soap, in lukewarm water. It may seem strange to use soap, rather than toothpaste, on an orthodontic appliance. However, toothpastes are abrasive. You don’t want to scratch the surface of your appliance.
- Scrub gently in a circular motion over all the surfaces of the appliance to remove plaque and food particles.
- Cotton swabs, moistened with lukewarm, soapy water are helpful tools to clean deep grooves and ridges.
- If soaking is recommended to disinfect and effectively remove bacteria, check with your orthodontist on the recommended cleanser. Denture cleanser tablets are commonly used. Most soaking procedures are simple and easy. A variety of denture cleanser tablets feature instructions such as a single tablet in a cup of lukewarm water. Add appliance after tablet has completely dissolved and soak for prescribed amount of time.
Sticky Food Dilemma: Anyone with a removable orthodontic appliance has been advised by their dental care professional to avoid foods like caramel and bubble gum. In the real world, not everyone follows this advice. Especially where young people are concerned. Sometimes the temptation to chew some gum can be overwhelming. What should you do if an orthodontic appliance has sticky stuff on it?
- Follow standard operating procedure for cleaning with a toothbrush or denture brush and mild cleanser.
- After removing as much of the sticky stuff as possible, place appliance in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Once sticky stuff hardens, cleanse with brush and mild soap once again.
- If appliance is still not rid of the sticky stuff, it’s time to consult with your orthodontist for professional advice.
Kick The Crust: Has this ever happened to you: You set aside your appliance with every intention of a good cleaning, then a distraction arises. The next thing you know the appliance is covered in a dried crust of food particles. Or, perhaps you have had your retainer for some time and it now has a hardened plaque build-up. Yuck! Now what do you do? Well, it’s going to take a bit more than just a good soak!
- Soak appliance for 15-20 minutes in a solution of equal parts warm water and white vinegar.
- Remove from soak and clean with toothbrush and mild cleanser, scrubbing gently in a circular motion.
- Repeat the soak procedure.
- Repeat brush cleaning procedure.
- If, by a third round, crust still remains, contact your orthodontist for further recommendations.
Stay Committed To Clean: Don’t under-estimate the value to your health for keeping your orthodontic appliance clean. While in use, it is constantly collecting bacteria and building up plaque and tartar. An unclean appliance will taste odd and smell funny. Bacteria build-up can contribute to infectious health complications related to harmful pathogens, like Streptococci and candida. These particular pathogens pose a serious risk to the immune system. Proper care of an orthodontic appliance doesn’t just keep your breath fresh, it will also contribute to better general health.
Dr. Dougherty and her exceptional team are happy to help you with any questions you may have about caring for your removable orthodontic appliance. To schedule an appointment, contact Dougherty Orthodontics at (636) 825-1000 today!