A retainer is an orthodontic device used to help teeth maintain their position following a straightening procedure. Retainers are custom-made devices that may be removable or permanent.
In most cases, retainers are used after braces. However, retainers may also be used to close a minor space between the teeth or to move one tooth.
3 Types of Retainers
The Hawley retainer is a type of retainer that uses a combination of a hard plastic or acrylic plate connected by a thin metal wire. This type of retainer is removable.
Just like its name, a clear retainer is a thin, transparent plate made of plastic. Similar to the Hawley retainer, clear retainers are easily removable.
A permanent retainer is a single wire made of metal fixed to your teeth using a special bonding agent. This type of retainer is often put into place for months or even years.
Hawley and clear retainers are removable, while permanent retainers are affixed to teeth and typically assigned to patients with complex cases.
To care for a removable retainer, be sure to brush them with lukewarm water and soap after each meal. Note that retainers should be cleaned immediately after removal, as lingering food particles can harden and cause issues like bad breath.
To care for a permanent retainer, it’s important to stay vigilant with your oral hygiene routine, particularly flossing. Consider investing in a floss threader to help you glide between wiring/brackets and access hard-to-reach areas.
Is a Retainer Right for Me?
Every patient will need a retainer after braces. A retainer will keep your teeth from reverting to their original position once your braces have been removed. Wearing a retainer as instructed is key to maintaining the success of orthodontic treatment.
Whether or not you’ve had braces, your dentist still may recommend a retainer to help correct a misaligned bite or keep your teeth straight. Straightening your teeth and alignment may help correct speech impairments and improve the appearance of your smile.
What Issues Does a Retainer Solve?
Once your braces are removed, the soft tissue and bone around the teeth need time to adapt to the tooth positioning changes that occurred while you had your braces on. Therefore, a retainer is needed to control or limit any potential changes in tooth position. It will help hold your teeth in their correct alignment while the surrounding soft tissue and bone adjust to the new positioning.
The first month is critical when it comes to wearing your retainer. This is because your teeth are more prone to move back to their original shape during this time.
What are Some Benefits of a Retainer?
As mentioned above, retainer treatment will help keep your teeth aligned and straight after your orthodontic treatment. Retainers offer several other benefits, including:
Stabilizing your bite
Maintaining space for wisdom teeth and new teeth
Prevent treatment reversal
Align your jaw bone with gums
Help your teeth hold their new position
What Does the Retainer Fitting Process Entail?
Getting a dental retainer is a simple procedure that generally takes half an hour to complete. For Hawley and clear retainers, your dentist will take impressions of your teeth which will be put into a plaster mold to create an original piece. These retainers are shaped accordingly to fit your mouth comfortably.
For a permanent retainer, your dentist will use a thin piece of twisted, flexible wire that is cut to fit behind your teeth. Once the wire is fit to your teeth and adjustments are made, the wire is attached to your teeth with a dental bonding material and resin.