Have you ever searched for your retainer or mouth guard only to find it under your bed, in a napkin or in the trash? Even in the best of circumstances, orthodontic retainers can develop a build-up of potentially harmful microbes if they aren’t properly cleaned. This is also true for the trusty mouth guards we use to protect our teeth while playing sports and at night to limit our teeth grinding.
A recent study by the Eastman Dental Institute at University College, London, found that about 67% of study participants’ retainers had a type of yeast called Candida that can cause fungal infections. And 50% of the retainers tested positive for the Staphylococcus bacteria, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).
Candida and Staphylococcus rarely cause problems in healthy people but can pose a serious threat to people with weakened immune systems. The findings, published recently in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology, suggested the need for improved cleaning products for orthodontic retainers and careful handling by consumers.
Proper hygiene is the best way to prevent bacteria from forming on your retainers and mouth guards. Follow these tips to keep your retainers and mouth guards clean and bacteria-free:
Wash your hands before and after handling your retainer or mouth guard.
Use a separate toothbrush and toothpaste to brush your retainer or mouth guard before and after wearing it.
Place your retainer or mouth guard case in the top rack of your dishwasher every few weeks to clean it.
Soak your retainer or mouth guard in mouthwash or a special dental device cleaner weekly. (I use Polident denture cleaner, but there are a variety of cleaning tablets for dental appliances on the market.)
Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss once a day and use mouthwash daily.