Keep Your Straight Smile With Orthodontic Retainers

Now your teeth look fantastic! However, to keep that beautiful smile, it is important to wear your retainers. Wearing your retainers will determine how your teeth will look for years to come.

After your smile is corrected using braces or clear aligners, your work isn’t over. To keep your perfect smile, you’ll need to wear a retainer. The retainer ensures that all the hard work you put in during your time in orthodontic treatment doesn’t go to waste.

Once your treatment is completed, you will receive retainers to hold your teeth as perfectly as they finished. We will provide you with detailed instructions on wear and care of your retainers the day you receive them.

Types of retainers explained

Permanent or bonded retainers consist of a thin wire bonded directly to the back of the teeth. We use the same type of bonding material that held your brackets in place to hold the retainer wire in place. That means it will remain indefinitely. It won’t be visible to others as it is placed on the back side of the teeth. Because of its placement, it can be slightly more difficult to brush and floss properly. Patients with bonded retainers will need to be diligent in caring for their teeth.
Bonded Retainers
Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are what most of us picture when we think of retainers. They consist of an acrylic piece that sits on the palate with a wire attached that holds the teeth in place. They can be used on both the top and bottom. They are removed to eat, brush, and floss. They are noticeable to others, but the wire is very thin so they have a low profile.

Clear retainers, such as Essix or Vivera, are growing in popularity. They look very similar to clear aligners, making them popular because of their high level of discretion. They are made of clear, BPA-free plastic and fit snugly over the teeth to retain their new locations. They are comfortable and almost completely invisible to others. These retainers are removed to eat, drink, brush, and floss.

Clear Retainers

Retainers FAQ

  1. What exactly does a retainer do? A retainer does just what its name implies – it retains the new location of your teeth. Your braces or clear aligners gradually shifted your teeth to new locations. A retainer is needed to hold the teeth in place as the mouth stabilizes the bite. Because the teeth moved through bone, new bone must regrow and the periodontal ligament must stabilize.
  2. How long will I need to wear my retainer? As with your original treatment plan, your retainer wear will be individualized to your unique needs. But the simple answer is, if you want to retain your new smile forever, you should wear your retainer indefinitely. That doesn’t mean you need to wear it 24 hours a day, though. Once we feel your bite has stabilized, you can switch to wearing your retainer just overnight.
  3. What types of retainers are there? There are three main types of retainers – permanent retainers, Hawley retainers, and clear plastic retainers.
  • Permanent retainers are bonded directly to the back of the teeth and remain in place until removed by the orthodontist. They are typically only used on the lower teeth and are for patients with the most likelihood of a relapse.
  • Hawley retainers consist of a metal wire attached to an acrylic palate piece.
  • Clear retainers, such as Essix retainers, look similar to clear aligners. They fit snugly over the teeth and are clear, offering a high level of discretion while wearing.
  1. How do I clean my retainer? Permanent bonded retainers are cleaned as you brush and floss your teeth normally. Removable retainers should be removed from your mouth and cleaned regularly.
  • Daily cleaning – Gently clean the retainer with clear, anti-bacterial hand soap and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly using room temperature water before placing it back in your mouth. Never use hot water, as heat can alter the retainer’s fit. Avoid using toothpaste or abrasive cleaners because these can scratch the surface of the retainer, allowing bacteria to set in.
  • Weekly cleaning – Soak your retainer in cleaning tablets at least once a week. You can also use denture cleaning tablets. Rinse the retainer thoroughly before placing it back in your mouth.
  • If you notice white spots on your retainer, soak it in one part water to one part vinegar for a few minutes. Then rinse thoroughly.
  1. What happens if it feels like my retainer no longer fits? A retainer that no longer fits can’t do its job correctly so we need to find the cause. In some cases, the shape of the retainer may have become distorted. Ther can happen if the retainer is soaked in water that is too hot or if it has been left in a hot place. Your retainer can also lose its shape if you take it out improperly or if it is damaged. The second reason why the retainer may not fit properly is that you haven’t been wearing it as prescribed. Even if your teeth shift slightly, the retainer will no longer fit as it should. If your retainer no longer fits properly, schedule an appointment so we can determine the source of the problem and make a plan moving forward.
  2. How long will it take to get used to my retainer? We know you are excited about finishing your treatment and no longer have the feeling of your braces or aligners. But your retainer will ensure your teeth remain as beautifully straight as the day we remove your braces, so it’s important to know what to expect with your retainer. It will take a couple of days for your mouth to adjust to the new appliance. Your speech may be slightly affected; practice speaking to get used to it. The more you wear your retainer, the quicker you will get used to it.
  3. What are some tips for caring for my retainer? Taking proper care of your retainer will extend its life, and ensure it fits and can do its job.
    • Don’t play with your retainer while it is in your mouth.
    • When you don’t have your retainer in, be sure it is always in its case. It’s easy to mistakenly throw it away if it gets wrapped in a napkin while eating.
    • Keep the retainer away from pets – we’ve had more than one patient have a retainer eaten by a family dog!
    • Always remove your retainer when eating. If you have a bonded retainer, avoid eating foods that are too sticky or hard.
    • Clean your retainer regularly.
    • Keep your retainer away from extreme heat.
    • If you have a clear retainer, remove it when drinking anything but water.
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