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What is the White Build-up on my retainers?




Maintaining a clean and hygienic retainer is crucial for optimal oral health and effective orthodontic treatment. The white buildup that can occur on retainers, known as tartar, is a mixture of plaque and calcium deposits. Failure to clean the retainer regularly can result in tartar formation, leading to undesirable consequences such as bad breath, discoloration, and potential dental issues like cavities and gum problems. In this article, we will explore the causes of tartar buildup on retainers and provide valuable insights on how to effectively clean and care for your retainer, ensuring a healthy and radiant smile throughout your orthodontic journey.

What is the White Build-up on my retainers?

The white buildup on your retainer is a mixture of plaque and calcium deposits called “tartar.” Plaque forms on your retainer when bacteria, food, and saliva combine. If you don’t clean your retainer regularly, the plaque hardens into tartar, which looks white or yellowish.

Tartar is tough to remove with regular cleaning, like brushing or soaking in water. If you don’t clean your retainer well, tartar can lead to bad breath, discoloration, and dental issues like cavities or gum problems.

If you have tartar buildup on your retainer, it’s essential to address it promptly to maintain good oral hygiene and keep your retainer in good condition. Here’s what you can do:

  • Do not scrape or scratch: Avoid trying to scrape or scratch the tartar off your retainer with sharp objects. Doing so can damage the retainer’s surface, making it less effective and potentially creating areas for more plaque to accumulate.
  • Soak in a retainer cleaner: Try soaking your retainer in a specialized retainer cleaning solution or denture cleaning tablet. These products are designed to break down and remove tartar and other buildup without harming the retainer’s material.
  • Brush gently: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently brush your retainer, paying attention to the areas with tartar buildup. Avoid using toothpaste, as some toothpaste contains abrasives that may scratch the retainer.
  • Seek professional cleaning: If the tartar buildup persists or is difficult to remove, consider visiting your orthodontist or dental professional for a professional cleaning. They have the expertise and proper tools to safely clean your retainer without damaging it.

Remember to maintain regular cleaning of your retainer to prevent future tartar buildup. Clean your retainer daily using the appropriate cleaning method recommended by your orthodontist or retainer provider, and seek professional advice if you encounter any issues with tartar or other buildup.

People also ask these questions

Why is there white stuff in my retainer?

White spots could be mineral buildup (tartar), plaque that causes cavities in teeth, or a combination of the two. Another sign that a retainer needs cleaning is it keeps breaking or cracking.

Is calcium buildup on retainer bad?

Even with great dental habits, calcium can begin to buildup on your retainer. This white-yellow material is also called tartar, which is hardened plaque. Its rough surface is porous enough to accumulate bacteria, which can lead to oral health problems.

What is the crusty stuff on my retainer?

If you’re actually wearing your retainers, it’s hard not to notice them becoming dirty; and you can’t brush that stuff off! That’s because the calcium and other minerals in your saliva have attached themselves to your retainer similar to plaque/ calculus on your teeth.

Can a dirty retainer damage teeth?

Bacteria can build up on your retainers and eventually cause an infection in your mouth, like gum disease. Dirty retainers can also lead to accelerated tooth decay, meaning you can develop cavities that gradually eat away at your tooth enamel.

What does mold on a retainer look like?

If black mold takes up residence on your mouth guard, you’ll notice small black or greenish-black spots. They may have a slimy or wet texture, so professionals recommend using a paper towel or gloves to feel and identify the substance. You may also notice a musty or earthy smell.

How To Clean Retainers

Cleaning your retainer is essential to maintain good oral hygiene. Here are a few ways to clean your retainer

Denture Cleaners

Denture cleaning tablets are effective at removing bacteria, stains, and plaque buildup from retainers, just as they do with dentures. To use them, fill a container with warm water, drop a denture cleaning tablet in, and let it fizz. Then, submerge the retainers in the solution and soak them for the recommended time, typically 15-30 minutes. After soaking, make sure to rinse the retainers thoroughly to remove any residue before putting them back in your mouth. Denture cleaning tablets are a convenient and practical choice for maintaining the cleanliness and hygiene of your retainers.

While denture cleaning tablets can be effective for cleaning retainers, there are some potential drawbacks to consider. Some individuals may be sensitive to the chemicals in the tablets, leading to discomfort or irritation if not rinsed adequately. While denture cleaning tablets are generally suitable for regular cleaning, they may not be as effective for tough stains or deeply embedded debris on retainers. To ensure proper use, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and consult with your orthodontist for personalized advice.

Fizzy 3-in-1 Foam Cleaner

For retainer wearers seeking an effective and convenient solution for maintaining optimal oral hygiene, Fizzy’s 3-in-1 foam cleaner is a highly recommended choice. This specialized retainer cleaner offers a host of benefits, making it so far the best retainer cleaner. Fizzy foam cleaner is compatible with all major clear aligner brands like Invisalign, Bite, Smile Direct Club, Candid, as well as various types of retainers, including Essix/clear retainers and Hawley retainers. With its gentle formula, free from alcohol, parabens, fluoride, hydrogen peroxide, and artificial colors, Fizzy is perfect for individuals with sensitive gums.

Using Fizzy foam cleaner is effortless and efficient. Simply pump some foam onto your retainer and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Afterward, rinse the retainer with water to remove any residue. For a more thorough cleaning, a soft bristle brush can be used to gently clean every detail and corner of the retainer. Moreover, Fizzy retainer cleaner offers versatility, doubling as a mouthwash and breath freshener for added convenience in your daily oral care routine. Additionally, its TSA compliant and travel-friendly design ensures that your retainers stay clean and fresh even when you’re on the go. Embrace the ease and efficacy of Fizzy foam cleaner to preserve the longevity of your retainers and maintain a healthy, radiant smile.

Baking Soda

Using baking soda to clean retainers has both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, baking soda is a safe and gentle cleaning option, suitable for various retainer materials, and it is cost-effective as it is readily available in most households. Additionally, it neutralizes odors, leaving the retainer feeling fresh and clean, and serves as a natural cleaning agent without harsh chemicals. However, there are limitations to consider: baking soda may not be as effective on tough stains or deep discoloration, it requires manual brushing, which can be time-consuming, and it lacks strong antimicrobial properties, making it not a complete disinfectant. While baking soda can be a useful and safe option for regular retainer cleaning, it may not be the best choice for more challenging cleaning tasks.

Create a paste by mixing baking soda with water, aiming for a thick consistency. Gently brush the aligners using a soft-bristled toothbrush or one designated for aligner cleaning, ensuring you cover all surfaces inside and outside. Rinse the aligners thoroughly with water to eliminate any baking soda residue. Remember to be gentle while brushing to avoid damage to the material, as baking soda is typically a safe option.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can be both helpful and potentially problematic when cleaning retainers. The advantages include its potent antimicrobial properties, effectively eliminating bacteria and promoting improved oral hygiene. Furthermore, it can effectively combat tough stains, rejuvenating the appearance of your retainer. Its widespread availability and affordability also add to its appeal. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution, as prolonged use may damage certain retainer materials. Proper dilution is essential to avoid any adverse effects, and excessive use can result in the retainer becoming brittle or degraded. Additionally, some individuals may experience mild irritation or sensitivity. To ensure safe and effective use, seek guidance from your orthodontist before incorporating hydrogen peroxide into your retainer cleaning routine.

For effective aligner cleaning, dilute hydrogen peroxide with water at a ratio of 1:3 to reduce its strength and minimize potential risks. Avoid prolonged exposure of your aligners to hydrogen peroxide, as it may weaken or damage the material. Opt for a short soak or rinse instead, following the time recommended by your orthodontist or retainer. After cleaning, ensure thorough rinsing with water to eliminate any leftover hydrogen peroxide. Don’t overuse hydrogen peroxide, as excessive application may lead to brittleness and material degradation in your aligners. Stick to the recommended cleaning intervals for preserving their integrity and maintaining good oral hygiene.

How Often Should I Clean Retainers?

Cleaning your retainers every day is crucial for good oral hygiene and to keep them free from harmful bacteria. Regular cleaning helps prevent plaque buildup, bad breath, and potential oral health issues. It also ensures your retainers stay in the right position, keeping your teeth aligned effectively during orthodontic treatment.

If you get sick, it’s important to clean your retainers as soon as you recover. Illness can leave harmful bacteria and germs on your retainers, which may cause reinfection or oral health problems if not properly cleaned.

Giving your retainer a deep cleaning at least once a week is recommended. While daily cleaning is important, a deep cleaning removes stubborn plaque, tartar, and debris that regular cleaning might miss. This thorough cleaning ensures your retainer stays fresh and free from harmful bacteria.

When to replace your retainer

You may be taking good care of your retainers but unfortunately, they don’t last forever, even though you have to wear them for your life long. Knowing when to replace your retainer is crucial for maintaining proper oral health and the effectiveness of your orthodontic treatment. Look out for these signs that indicate it’s time for a replacement:

  • Cracks or damage: If you notice any cracks or damage, the retainer may no longer hold your teeth properly, potentially causing shifting teeth and oral issues.
  • Wear and tear: Over time, the retainer’s material can wear down, losing its shape and effectiveness, making it less effective in keeping your teeth aligned.
  • Too tight or loose: If the retainer feels too tight or too loose, it may no longer fit your teeth correctly, necessitating a replacement to ensure proper alignment.
  • Foul odor or taste: A bad smell or taste from the retainer indicates a buildup of bacteria or plaque, and replacing it is essential for maintaining oral hygiene.
  • Discoloration: Yellowing or discoloration of the retainer material can weaken it and may indicate bacterial buildup, warranting a replacement to support your oral health.


The white buildup on your retainer is a combination of plaque and calcium deposits known as tartar. Neglecting regular cleaning can cause this plaque to harden into tartar, leading to bad breath, discoloration, and potential dental issues like cavities or gum problems. To address tartar buildup, avoid scraping the retainer with sharp objects. Instead, opt for a specialized retainer cleaning solution or denture cleaning tablet for soaking. Gently brush the retainer using a soft-bristled toothbrush and consider professional cleaning if needed. Maintaining regular cleaning habits is essential to prevent future tartar buildup and ensure your retainer stays fresh and effective in maintaining proper oral hygiene.

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