Science & Articles >> BRUSHING & FLOSSING, NEWS

Don’t put germs in your mouth! Guide to keeping retainers, teeth aligners and oral appliances clean

Cleaning the appliances that you use in your mouth is just as important as brushing your teeth. Appliances like clear retainers & night guards can grow unwanted bacteria and other types of germs that are harmful to your oral & overall health.

Clear braces or aligners are a type of orthodontic treatment that is used to straighten your teeth and correct malocclusion or bite issues.[2] They have gained in popularity as they are considered by many to be more aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, and easier to comply with than traditional braces. Many wearers of the teeth aligners love that they are removable and that they can take a short break from them when needed.[3] The old aligners are disposed of every couple of weeks and are replaced as treatment progresses.The problem however is that some users reportedly go long stretches without cleaning their oral appliances.[4]

Despite being disposable, clear aligners still need to be cleaned properly.[1] Just as you are supposed to brush your teeth at least twice a day, you should also maintain all oral appliances such as your aligners. Failure to clean aligners properly will result in them harboring harmful bacteria that causes odors, stains, and the accumulation of harmful debris that leads to tooth and gum problems.[1]

The benefit of clear aligners is that you can remove them when needed such as when you are going to eat. Clear braces can stain easily if proper precautions are not taken. The user should avoid wearing them while consuming dark-colored foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea, red wine, and tomato sauce..[2] It is important that upon removal you place them in a clean container and not in unhygienic places such as unclean surfaces, napkins, or in your pockets. Doing this will subject the oral appliances to bacteria that you then will introduce into your mouth.

Before placing the aligners back in your mouth you should either rinse them or clean them. Rinsing the aligners makes them appear cleaner and can remove visible debris. It is similar to rinsing dirty dishes prior to placing them in a dishwasher, you still haven’t removed the unseen bacteria that may have built up with just rinsing. To remove the unseen bacteria you must thoroughly clean them upon waking and prior to going to sleep.

How to properly clean aligners:

  • Rinse your aligners with water in the morning and at night.[2]
  • Brush your aligners with a soft toothbrush and a nonabrasive toothpaste, so as to remove debris, food particles, and bacteria.[2] Some manufacturers of oral appliances recommend that you use a clear liquid soap to remove debris.[1] Speak with your dentist regarding their recommendations.
  • Rinse the aligners thoroughly after brushing them.[2]
  • Store them in a clean dry protective case when not in use.[2]

Cleaning Accessories:

Some clear aligner companies recommend maintaining your aligners by using tablets or cleaning crystals that dissolve in water to aid in cleaning them.[1] You should try to avoid using denture cleaner tablets as these can potentially discolor the aligners overtime. Instead use cleaning tablets that are made especially for cleaning oral appliances such as clear braces, mouth-guards, whitening trays, or retainers.

You should place your aligners in a container and place the tablets or crystals in the container so that the aligners could be disinfected. After soaking in the solution for a few minutes you would manually brush the aligners with warm water.[1]

Many dental professionals such as dental hygienists recommend using a UV cleaner to regularly disinfect your oral appliances such as clear braces, mouth-guards, whitening trays, or retainers and oral cleaning aides, such as your electric toothbrush heads. A UV light can kill up to 99.9 % of bacteria and germs that might be on your oral appliances.[5] Many choose to use this method as they don’t have to worry about possibly having an allergic reaction to using a tablet or solution, as these products that might become absorbed into the appliances.[5] A UV cleaner is great for quickly, safely, and effectively cleaning oral appliances as all you do is place the appliance in the UV cleaner with some water and press a button.[5] After the designated time you can remove the appliance. This helps to maintain the appliances in-between thoroughly brushing them.

It is imperative that while you are in orthodontic treatment you make sure your oral hygiene routine is impeccable so that you can keep your mouth healthy. Brush your teeth two to three times a day and floss.[2] Drinking plenty of water will prevent your mouth from getting dry as the aligners can decrease the saliva that is in your mouth leading to dental issues.

Staying hydrated with water can prevent the retainer from drying out, becoming damaged, and help to prevent bacteria overgrowth.[4] Avoid smoking as this will also dry our out oral tissues, and increase the likelihood of gum issues. Visit your dentist regularly so that they can monitor the progression of your orthodontic treatment and alert you to any treatment changes or concerns.[2]

Kari Carter-Cherelus

Kari Carter-Cherelus RDH, DA is a registered Dental Hygienist, writer, consultant, coach, international keynote speaker, with 23 years of experience in dentistry. She is passionate about helping others recover from burnout, improving organization’s work culture, and helping her clients to improve their mindset. She authored the book The Ultimate Guide For Dental Hygienist Burnout, and has written for RDH Graduate, RDH Magazine, and Inside Dental Hygiene.


  1. How to Clean Invisalign: Do’s, Don’ts, and Best Practices. Nall, Rachel. (2020, October 19).
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Clear Braces.(2022, July 25).
  3. Dental Health Society. Keeping Invisalign Clean-How to Do it and Why It’s Important. (2021, November 1).
  4. Medical News Today. 8 tips for cleaning a retainer. (2021, March 7).
  5. Do UV sanitizers work on retainers? Pepito, Mary Grace. (2022, April 7).