Q&A With Dr Emma
Hi Dr Emma, Can you please recommend a product to clean clear plastic retainers. I had been advised to use a mixture of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda but this doesn't remove the buildup of calcium. I was told not to brush them as this could cause scratches. PS. I've just had my teeth straightened and I'm 55! Kind Regards, Carol, Safety Bay (WA)
There's a few different things you can do to keep your retainers clean. As I'm sure your orthodontist or dentist explained, if you want your teeth to stay in the position they are now, you need to wear your retainers for the rest of your life, (even if it's eventually only a few nights a week). That means you'll definitely go through a few sets, but keeping them clean will mean each set lasts as long as possible.
Each time you take them out, give your retainers a good rinse and a brush with soap. You might like to keep a dedicated toothbrush for this purpose, so you don't have to taste a soapy brush when you clean your teeth. Don't use toothpaste, as it's too abrasive for the plastic. It will leave microscopic scratches in your retainers, which make a great haven for bacteria and a surface which calculus, (tartar), can easily form on. Remember not to use hot water either, as heat will distort the plastic.
If you find you're getting calculus build-up anyway, try a commercial denture or mouthguard cleaning tablet every month or two. This might not get them completely clean if there's a lot of build-up already though. You need to be careful not to damage the plastic, but try soaking in white vinegar for a few minutes. Don't add and bicarbonate of soda, as it will create a lot of bubbles but neutralises the acid. It's the acidic vinegar which will dissolve the calculus, but be careful - only a few minutes at at time!