It’s flu season. Unfortunately, its incredibly contagious nature made it hard for your kid(s) to avoid it. Fortunately, after much coughing, vomiting, and chicken noodle soup, they got better!

Caring for a sick child isn’t easy, and keeping the rest of the household healthy can be stressful. Children’s Dental Center is here to reduce some of that stress by helping you properly disinfect your child’s retainer to prevent reinfection or spreading of the virus.

Before we get started, we want to advise you to ask your dentist before applying any product to the retainer! There are different styles of retainers made of varying materials, and what might be safe for use on one is not safe for another. 

Now, let’s look at some things you can do to clean the retainer and hopefully help avoid a flu outbreak in your home.

Start With The Toothbrush!

When your child is sick, they should continue to wear their retainer as normal unless they are throwing up, eating, drinking, or performing oral hygiene. That means the retainer should have had its regular cleaning every day with antibacterial soap and a soft-bristled toothbrush.

After your child has recovered, that toothbrush will likely have germs and bacteria that could spread the illness to the retainer. Even if your child doesn’t get sick again, they could share those germs with others in the house through talking, coughing, or sharing eating or drinking utensils. Because of this, one of the first things you’ll want to do is replace or disinfect the toothbrush your child uses to clean their retainer.

If you choose to disinfect rather than replace, you can try the following:

  • Soak the toothbrush in an antibacterial mouthwash and rinse thoroughly.
  • Use a UV Sanitizer. These devices use ultraviolet light and heat to kill germs!
  • Denture cleaners can even be used, too! Rinse thoroughly before using.

Clean the protective case!

When your child was not wearing the retainer, it should have been in the protective case. The case needs to be cleaned once a week, but during flu season, you’ll want to be extra diligent!

If your child has recently had the flu, you’ll want to give the case a thorough scrubbing with dish soap and a sponge. Allow it to dry completely before putting the retainers in it.

Disinfect the retainer!

Retainers must be cleaned daily with unscented antibacterial soap and a toothbrush to avoid a build-up of bacteria and plaque that cause bad breath and tooth decay, among other issues. Most of the time, that soap and toothbrush are all you need for retainer upkeep. However, this routine does not kill germs, viruses, or bacteria! To do that, you would need to disinfect the retainer.

Disinfecting the retainer does not need to be done every day. Your child coming down with and healing from the flu is the perfect time for a deep retainer clean.

There are a few ways to disinfect a retainer, and the best one depends on the retainer type that your child has. Don’t forget to ask your dentist before using any of the following products!

  • Retainer Brite — These dissolvable tablets are made specifically for retainer cleanings. Make sure to follow the instructions it comes with, but don’t let them soak longer than fifteen minutes.
  • Invisalign Cleaning Crystals – Made by Invisalign, for Invisalign. Follow instructions carefully.
  • Denture solutions – If you deep clean your child’s retainer regularly, this should not consistently be your first choice, as it can turn retainers yellow. Denture cleaning solutions are a good option if you need to disinfect but don’t have any other options available. Again, make sure to follow the instructions it comes with, and don’t let your retainers soak longer than fifteen minutes.
  • Baking soda and water mix – A natural disinfectant. To make, combine half water and half baking soda in a bowl and then mix until it’s thick enough to be a paste. Then apply to the retainers and use a soft-bristled too brush to scrub. Rinse thoroughly.
  • White vinegar and water – Another natural disinfectant, but it has the added benefit of removing visible spots. To use, submerge your retainer in a mix of white vinegar and warm water for no more than twenty minutes. Then, remove the retainer and gently scrub it with the soft-bristled toothbrush to remove visible residue. Rinse thoroughly. Vinegar has a strong smell, so if you or any member of your household is sensitive to smells, you should do this outside.

How to NOT disinfect the retainer.

Remember when you got a stain on your favorite non-white shirt and thought, “No biggie, I’ll just throw some bleach on it?” Remember that time put a takeout container in the microwave without checking if it was microwave safe? You probably stained your shirt and had a melted container inside your microwave.

In both scenarios, you weren’t doing anything wrong. Your process just wasn’t correct, and you accidentally ended up doing more harm than good. Similarly, you can harm the retainer while trying to clean it. Harsh products and extreme temperatures can damage or warp the retainer, making them uncomfortable or more noticeable when worn. They might even become impossible to wear!

To protect your child’s dental appliance, you should NOT:

  • Put the retainer in the dishwasher
  • Use boiling water
  • Use bleach
  • Use rubbing alcohol
  • Use mouthwash
  • Use toothpaste

All of these products are excellent cleaners and serve great purposes, but they are not suitable for a retainer. If you have any doubt about a product, do not use it without your dentist’s approval.

How to Disinfect Your Retainer After Being Sick

Children’s Dental Center is here to help!

Cleaning a retainer doesn’t need to be complicated. You have enough on your plate as a parent or legal guardian without going down a Google rabbit hole to find answers to your dental questions.

Our knowledgeable, experienced, and welcoming staff are always happy to assist! Dental care can be confusing, and trying to combine cleaning, disinfecting, and dental health can be tricky. 

We are passionate about helping your child(ren) achieve the best possible smile by teaching and encouraging healthy habits and providing expert care. For more information on retainer disinfecting or other oral healthcare needs, contact one of our four conveniently located offices to speak to a team member or book an appointment with our highly skilled dentists.
Toothfully, we can’t wait to see you, so come see us soon!