There are many different removable appliances — from dentures to retainers — that help people enjoy better mouth function and a more attractive smile. But like many things we use, they can wear out. Because they’re also spending a lot of time in the mouth they can become an attractive home for disease-causing bacteria.
You can extend your appliance’s life through regular cleaning and maintenance. Here are 4 tips to help you do it properly.
Use detergent — not toothpaste or bleach — for cleaning. Your appliance may look like teeth or gums, but it isn’t made of living tissue and shouldn’t be cleaned the same way. The abrasives in toothpaste can cause microscopic scratches in appliance materials that could harbor bacteria. Bleach is also a no-no — while it kills bacteria it also breaks down the composition of many appliance plastics. Ordinary household soaps like dish detergent work just fine.
Use warm — not hot or boiling — water. Boiling water also kills bacteria, but it and even hot tap water can soften many dental plastics and distort your appliance’s precise fit. Warm soapy water is sufficient for keeping your appliance clean. Be sure also to use a separate brush from your regular toothbrush, ideally one designed to clean appliances.
Consider using an ultrasonic cleaner. No matter how thorough you are, you won’t be able to fully access tiny crevices in your appliance with a brush. If you have a permanent appliance like a denture or retainer, consider purchasing an ultrasonic cleaner, a device that emits high frequency sound vibrations to loosen plaque in those hard to reach places.
Protect your appliance while it’s out of your mouth. Place a towel in the sink while you’re cleaning your appliance — an accidental drop onto a soft towel is less likely to damage it than on a hard porcelain or metal basin. Unless otherwise directed, it’s also best to remove your appliance while you sleep to help cut down on bacterial growth. But don’t leave it lying anywhere — pets or even young children may find it a fascinating “toy.” Be sure to store it in its case or in cleaning solution in a high place.
If you would like more information on taking care of an oral appliance, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “10 Tips for Cleaning Your Oral Appliance.”