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retainer disinfect clean

How to clean and disinfect retainers or mouthguards

After recovering from an illness and many patients wonder about the best way to clean and disinfect their retainer after being sick. Retainers or mouthguards also often tend to find themselves in “gross” locations like a pet’s mouth, the bathroom floor, or worst case scenario, the toilet! Some situations require a little more disinfecting before you’re comfortable putting that retainer back in your mouth.


Normal Daily Cleaning

For general daily cleaning of retainers immediately after removal from the mouth, we recommend gentle brushing with soft bristled toothbrush and an unscented soap or dish soap. Rinse with cool or lukewarm water. The goal is to remove as much plaque and saliva from the device before it has a chance to harden and cause tarter. This method greatly reduces the bacteria on the retainer and is enough for normal cleaning.

Can I Sterilize My Retainer?

It is actually not possible to sterilize your retainer. That means to remove ALL microorganisms.  The plastic that is is made of does not tolerate heat-sterilization methods like the autoclave we use for dental instruments because it could cause your retainer to warp. It is also not acceptable for us to us a full-strength chemical sterilization solution because the plastic is slightly porous and it could be toxic for you to put back in your mouth.

The best that we can achieve is disinfection (killing most of the bacteria) on your retainer so it will not make you sick again. The methods talked about in this article help to achieve disinfection.


How To Disinfect a Retainer At Home

We recommend that you only do this occasionally when needed, such as after an illness or if your retainer touches a very dirty surface. The research (1,2,3) shows this method decreases the bacterial amount on the retainer or denture which is made from a similar type of plastic. However, long-term use (years) has not been studied for the effect on people’s mouths or the shape, surface, or color of the plastic of the retainer, which is why it should be done sparingly.


  1. Be sure to use cool or lukewarm water, not too hot.
  2. First, brush off the retainer with a soft bristled brush and unscented soap and rinse. This step is important to remove the plaque, saliva, or other contaminants which can prevent the disinfectant from working
  3. Prepare a 0.5% disinfecting solution by mixing 1 part of 5% household bleach with 9 parts water (this would be like adding 1 TBSP bleach to 1/2 cup and 1 TBSP of water)
  4. Soak the cleaned retainer for 3 minutes in the disinfecting solution
  5. Thoroughly rinse the retainer with tap water for 1 minute

What NOT To Do

  • Never soak or pour boiling water on your retainers, it will cause their shape to change and they will not fit or they will cause your teeth to move in an undesirable way
  • Do not use abrasive cleaners like whitening toothpaste or gritty soap, this increases the amount of plastic scratching and creates more crevices for the bacteria
  • Do not use mouthwashes that have alcohol or straight alcohol as it can degrade the plastic of your retainer
  • Do not use denture tablets as they can corrode the metal that is incorporated into certain retainers
  • Do not use a microwave, dishwasher, washer or dryer, again this will cause warping of your retainer

How To Remove Hard Tarter from Retainers

We recommend that you bring any removable retainers to your cleaning appointments and we will put them in a solution that removes these hard deposits for you. We do not recommend that you scrape off the material yourself as it can result in changing the shape of your retainer or scratching the material.


If you have any questions on this topic we hope you’ll leave them in the comments below. If you have any thoughts or questions that you would like us to answer with a new blog post, please leave your thoughts here.

flossing during chemotherapy safe

Is flossing during chemotherapy treatment for cancer safe?

One of our patients brought up that she learned during a chemotherapy class she shouldn’t floss during chemotherapy. It was a topic we were unfamiliar with at the office, so we did some research to answer the question:

Is flossing during chemotherapy safe?

The answer is a bit complicated and requires personalized recommendations by both your dentist and oncologist. Schedule an appointment with us to answer all of your personal questions.

Why could it not be safe?

The reason that a healthcare provider may recommend that you do not floss during chemotherapy could be because your immune system is lessened and he or she is trying to prevent bacteria from entering your bloodstream. Some oncology teams will have you discontinue brushing and flossing when peripheral blood components decrease below defined thresholds (e.g., platelets <30,000/mm3) due to the bleeding risk (1). You should speak with your oncologist about his or her personal recommendations.

Bleeding gums and gingivitis, the never ending cycle

Unfortunately gingivitis (or gum inflammation) is caused by bacteria near your gums and the increase in inflammation leads to a higher likelihood of bleeding. So, in order to reduce the risk of bleeding, the bacteria needs to be safely and effectively removed, especially during chemotherapy.

What are the recommendations?

The National Cancer Institute’s PDQ cancer information summary about oral health during chemotherapy includes:

“Discontinuing dental brushing and flossing can increase risk for gingival bleeding, oral infection, and bacteremia [bacteria entering the blood].

Dental brushing and flossing should be performed daily under the supervision of professional staff:

  • A soft nylon-bristled toothbrush should be used 2 to 3 times a day [gently using Bass method]
  • Rinsing the toothbrush in hot water every 15 to 30 seconds during brushing will soften the brush and reduce risk for trauma.
  • Oral rinsing with water or saline 3 to 4 times while brushing will further aid in removal of dental plaque dislodged by brushing.
  • Rinses containing alcohol should be avoided.
  • A toothpaste with a relatively neutral taste should be considered because the flavoring agents in toothpaste can irritate oral soft tissues.
  • Brushes should be air-dried between uses.
  • While disinfectants have been suggested, their routine use to clean brushes has not been proven of value.
  • Ultrasonic toothbrushes may be substituted for manual brushes if patients are properly trained in their use.
  • Patients skilled at flossing without traumatizing gingival tissues may continue flossing throughout chemotherapy administration. Flossing allows for interproximal removal of dental bacterial plaque and thus promotes gingival health.” (1)

How do you brush and floss without traumatizing your gums?

See this video we created with Dawn, one of our hygienists.

Don’t snap the floss downward too forcefully where your teeth touch together, you should gently get the floss below that contact point with a side-to side motion.  Then wrap the floss around the side of the tooth and use an up-and-down motion rather than back and fourth. Pay special attention to each side of the tooth, you aren’t flossing the space between your teeth, you’re flossing the side of your teeth. Be gentle on your gums.


What other resources are available to learn about oral health during cancer treatment?

The NIDCR has great recommendations and pamphlets for patients about how to manage all dental and oral health concerns during cancer.

Chemotherapy and Your Mouth Pamphlet

We also recommend that you read the recommendations to prevent cavities during your chemotherapy, especially if you have had an increase in vomiting on our post for expectant mothers here.


If you have any questions on this topic we hope you’ll leave them in the comments below. If you have any thoughts or questions that you would like us to answer with a new blog post, please leave your thoughts here.



1. PDQ Supportive and Palliative Care Editorial Board. “Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation (PDQ®): Health Professional Version.” In PDQ Cancer Information Summaries. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US), 2002.

Congratulations to Wisconsin for #1 best dental health!

Source: WalletHub

“In order to determine which places have the healthiest teeth and gums in the U.S., WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 26 key indicators of dental wellness”

The indicators range from the percent of population who visited the dentist, sweetened beverage consumption, insurance coverage, to quality of life measures affected by oral condition.

See the full report here!

Congratulations Wisconsinites for taking good care of your teeth! If you have any thoughts or questions that you would like us to answer with a new blog post, please leave them here.  To keep our state ranking #1 and prevent dental problems of your own, schedule with us here.



keep those baby teeth

Why do we treat baby teeth?

It’s Children’s Dental Health Month, and we’re celebrating by providing you with the tools you need to keep the child in your life’s teeth healthy. The first tool we can give families is understanding why baby teeth are important.

We often hear from parents; “Why should I get that baby tooth filled, it’s just going to fall out anyway?” Here are some reasons why baby teeth are very important!

Baby teeth save space for permanent teeth

When a baby tooth is lost too soon, the teeth behind it move forward into that space and there is nowhere for the adult tooth to come in when it’s ready. This is often why we will suggest a space maintainer (or a wire that holds the space open) if a baby tooth need to be extracted due to an abscess. When the adult teeth don’t have the space to come in properly, they often shift toward the cheek or tongue side causing problems with the bite that require braces to fix.

lost space baby tooth

Infections in baby teeth damage permanent teeth

When a baby tooth becomes infected and abscesses, the infection in the bone harms the developing permanent tooth underneath it. This is called a “Turner’s tooth.” The enamel doesn’t form properly on the adult tooth, so having infections in the baby teeth can harm the child’s adult tooth for life and require more expensive dental work.

Turners Tooth

Baby teeth allow kids to chew nutritious food for growth and development

Children are constantly growing and require essential vitamins and minerals to maintain that growth and health. Fruits and vegetables are crunchy and the act of chewing food  painlessly is an important function of digestion.

Healthy baby teeth promote self-esteem

Bullying is at an all-time high in the school-aged population. When children lose a tooth well before their classmates do, everyone takes notice. Kids can also be picked on for having visible cavities or black teeth. Developing the confidence to smile is important at any age, but especially for kids because how they feel about their appearance now can have a lasting impact on adulthood.

children self esteem

A full set of baby teeth is important in speech development

Research shows that premature loss of the two front teeth has a long-term impact on language development (1).


Learn more about baby teeth here. The ADA has put together many resources to help caregivers take care of their children’s teeth.


If you have any questions on this topic we hope you’ll leave them in the comments below. If you have any thoughts or questions that you would like us to answer with a new blog post, please leave your thoughts here. We recommend that children have their first dental visit by age 1, to schedule with us click here.


1. Kalia, Garima, Sandeep Tandon, Nameksh Raj Bhupali, Ambika Rathore, Rinku Mathur, and Khushboo Rathore. “Speech Evaluation in Children with Missing Anterior Teeth and after Prosthetic Rehabilitation with Fixed Functional Space Maintainer.” Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry 36, no. 4 (December 2018): 391–95.