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Soaking vs. Brushing Retainers and Dentures

Soaking vs. brushing your dentures or removable retainers—do you really need to do both? The simple answer is yes. Each method plays a vital role in keeping your dental appliance not only clean and fresh but in optimal condition.

What’s more, the American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) recommends dentures be cleaned through both soaking and brushing on a daily basis using a non-abrasive denture cleanser. This cleaning practice can help decrease the buildup of harmful bacteria, fungi, and biofilm on the denture surface, ensuring better oral hygiene for the wearer.1

Below, we’ll cover why you need to brush and soak your dental appliances, what to avoid, and how to clean your dentures, Hawley retainer, or clear aligners for the best possible results.


The main purpose—and advantage—of brushing your dental appliance before soaking is to remove food particles to help prevent plaque buildup. By doing so, you give your soaking solution the optimal surface to really go to work and clean your retainers or dentures.

What to Avoid When Brushing Your Dental Appliance

Even with the best intentions, there are a few common mistakes people make when brushing their dental appliances that could cause issues. Here are some things to avoid when brushing your teeth aligners or dentures:

Abrasive toothpaste: Regular toothpaste is too abrasive for dental appliances and can scratch the surface, making it more susceptible to bacterial growth and staining. Instead, use specifically designed retainer or denture cleaners.

Rough bristles: Hard or rough bristles can scratch the surface of your dental appliance, creating small crevices where bacteria can grow. Use a soft-bristled denture brush and be gentle when brushing your dental appliance.

Sharing your denture brush: Never use someone else’s denture brush (or let someone else use yours), as this can increase the risk of infection and the spread of bacteria.

How to Brush Your Dental Appliance

No matter the type of retainer or denture, you’ll want to be gentle when brushing to avoid causing damage.

Rinse. After removing your dentures or retainers, rinse them under cool or lukewarm water to remove any loose debris.

Apply cleaner. Apply a small amount of denture or retainer cleaner to a soft-bristled brush.

Brush gently. Using gentle circular motions, brush your dental appliance on all sides, including any crevices or hard-to-reach areas. Be sure to brush the inside and outside surfaces of your dental appliance.

Rinse again. Rinse your dentures or retainers under cool or lukewarm water to remove any leftover cleaning solution.


Soaking your dental appliance daily helps to remove bacteria, debris, and stains, and prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms. This helps to maintain good oral hygiene and keep your appliance in good condition.

What to Avoid When Soaking Your Dental Appliance

Just like with brushing, there are a few things to look out for so that you don’t cause damage to your appliance or irritation to your mouth. Here are some things to avoid when soaking your retainers or dentures:

Hot water: Soaking your dentures or retainer in too warm water can cause it to warp or lose its shape. Always use cool or lukewarm water when soaking your dental appliance.

Bleach: While bleach can be an effective cleaning agent, it can also damage the surface of your dental appliance and cause it to discolor. Instead, use a cleaning solution that is specifically designed for dental appliances.

Mouthwash: While mouthwash can help freshen your breath, it can also contain alcohol or other chemicals that can damage your dental appliance. Stick to using a cleaning solution that is designed for dental appliances.

Harsh ingredients: Common household items like hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap can discolor or harm your appliance overtime.

Leaving it soaking for too long: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how long to soak your dental appliance, and be sure to rinse it thoroughly before putting it back in your mouth.

How to Soak Your Dental Appliance

Smiling girl holding retainer for teeth and tooth tray

After you have brushed your dental appliance, the soaking process is just three simple steps.

Stir. Add the contents of an Ola Fresh Dental Appliance Cleanser packet to about 1 cup of lukewarm water and give it a stir. Allow it to stand for about 3 minutes.

Submerge. The soak time will depend on the appliance type, but the timing should be at least 15 minutes per cleaning. (Mouthguards, aligners, and dentures containing soft liners shouldn’t be soaked for more than 15 minutes per cleaning.)

Rinse. Give your dental appliance a good rinse under running water and you are ready to reinsert it into your mouth.

Elevate Your Retainer or Denture Care with Ola Fresh Dental Appliance Cleanser

Subtly minty Ola Fresh Dental Appliance Cleanser is proven to remove the toughest stains as well as plaque, tartar, and calculus on most types of removable appliances. Working in just minutes to offer professional-level results at home, Ola Fresh fits easily into any daily orthodontic care routine.

Discover what customers just like you have to say about Ola Fresh and read the answers to the most frequently asked questions!