Retainers Are Grosser Than You Think

March 16, 2011

Brit Trogen


In a gross and enlightening study, researchers at University College London have discovered that as many as half of orthodontic devices, like retainers, are home to potentially dangerous microbes. In other words: they're now scientifically proven to be the grossest things ever.


The knowledge that your mouth, and the things inside it, are a hidden reservoir of bacteria might not come as a major shock. But the strains sought out in this study were not your everyday germs. The researchers focused their attention on two pathogens that are not normally found in the mouth, and instead are famous for causing hospital-acquired infections: a yeast called Candida, and Staphylococcus, including MRSA; the famous antibiotic-resistant strain.


In a twist of science that will turn us off of retainer-wearers indefinitely, 50% of retainers (and their mouths) were found to contain Staphylococcus, while 66.7% had Candida. And if that wasn't bad enough, it was found that the microbes were living in aggregate biofilms on the surfaces of the retainers that are extremely difficult to remove once they've formed, even with antimicrobial solutions. Barf. 


Of course, none of these microbes will be of major concern to healthy individuals, though it's still pretty nasty to think of cultivating a petri dishi in your mouth every night. But for immuno-compromised individuals, straight teeth can suddenly be much more dangerous... even deadly. In the battle for straight teeth, it's possible that people with these immunity issues may have to wave the white flag.


But this all raises one very important question for a tooth-grinder like me: is a retainer the same as a mouth-guard?


If you are in fact one of the few who lives with this shameful secret, the researchers recommend rinsing your bacterial breeding ground with mouthwash. Then crying yourself to sleep.



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