Dear Dr. Ellie, 

I am confused how to implement your program with my full-time essix retainers (except for eating). I imagine the retainers, if not cleaned properly, will just trap bacteria inside as well as prevent xylitol from reaching their destination inside my teeth. My essix retainers, for example, cover the entire upper palate. How do I properly clean these retainers and how do I implement the use of xylitol? Currently, and painstakingly, after using the CWS on my teeth, I brush the retainers with Listerine, then rinse with water and brush/rinse off plaque, then put Listerine on them again as a rinse (to kill bacteria from the water). I then wipe with a towel (air dry takes to long), then, I place ACT inside and outside of the retainer, then insert in my mouth. Could you help us invisalign/retainer folks out? 


Dear Helena,

You are doing a great job. I don’t think you need my advice!

In the perfect world, I would have you eat 6 -10 grams of xylitol each day for at least 6 months before having retainers fitted. In this way you would start out with low bacteria counts and controlled plaque.

The difficulty with retainers or any kind of appliance (braces, partial dentures) is that they trap bacteria, slow the flow of saliva around your mouth and cause plaque build up, mouth acidity and resulting tooth/gum damage.

You should try to end every meal or snack with some xylitol. You could eat granular from a spoon, dissolve in water and swish and drink or you could enjoy some Zellies mints (fruit or mint). Some people get away with the gum but I am not suggesting this!

If you do the “system” morning and night I think you should be fine. In fact, with a thin film of ACT against your teeth at night you may find your teeth get whiter and stronger during this treatment.

I will look into the idea of a xylitol breath spray for you that could be an “on the road” solution to after-lunch!

Please check back in a few weeks and see if I have one for you!

Ellie Phillips, DDS

Categories: Xylitol

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  • Joe says:

    Dear Dr. Ellie:

    I have a follow-on question about using your system with Invisalign/retainers. I use your system in the morning and night. After meals and snacks, I also drink water to rinse my mouth and follow it with xylitol mints and gum. Before I started your system, I would brush my teeth after lunch before putting my essix retainer back in my mouth in order to avoid getting food particles trapped under the retainer.

    Now that I’m on your system, do you recommend that I use all the steps of your system for the post-lunch brushing before putting my retainer back in? Is that the best case-scenario or is that over doing it?

    Additionally, if I’m in a time crunch after lunch or don’t want to bring the three bottles (from your system) into the restroom at work where I brush my teeth, then what kind of shortened/modified system would you recommend, if any, for the post-lunch brushing? The restroom has 3 sinks lined up in a row and it gets kind of busy in there after lunch. For instance, would it be alright to just brush with the Crest toothpaste and follow it with a quick 5-second rinse with Act? If I can only brush, then should I not rinse with water afterwards?

    I’m so glad that I found out about your system, and I started it last week. I’ve scoured all your websites, but I was unable to find the answer to these questions above.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Joe,

      Thanks for your message. It is OK to use the system 3 times a day, but don’t do it more than that! It is a challenge to travel with this rinse sequence, so it makes sense to use the Crest and ACT – and I think that would be a smart choice. Retainers give you added “risk factors” and so a little extra care after lunch is probably sensible. On days when brushing your teeth is not an option – rinse well with water and then eat Zellies ( as you have been doing) before replacing your retainer. Thanks again – and let us know when your dentist notices improvements in your oral health!

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