Retainers are orthodontic appliances that help keep teeth straight after active orthodontic treatment. These devices are custom-made to match the shape and alignment of each patient’s mouth and teeth. While orthodontic treatment is responsible for straightening teeth, retainers play an important role in maintaining their new positions.
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Removable Vs. Fixed Retainers
There are two general types of retainers available, fixed and removable. Patients with removable retainers are free to take out their devices and put them back in their mouths. This removability is convenient for brushing, eating, and flossing. Removable retainers can consist of either a plastic base that fits the roof of the patient’s mouth and a strong wire that wraps around teeth or a clear hard plastic that covers teeth.
Patients with fixed retainers will have a metal wire bonded to the backs of their teeth. The wires attach to teeth and adjust to each person’s bite to ensure that their teeth do not shift or become crooked. They are a good option for people who have a difficult time adhering to removable retainer guidelines. A 2017 survey on protocols and trends in orthodontic retention found that patients received a combination of fixed and removable retainers most often for orthodontic retention. Our team can determine the best retainer option for each patient’s needs.
“There are two general types of retainers available, fixed and removable.”
The Importance of Retainers After Braces
Retainers are an important part of preventing teeth from relapsing after orthodontic treatment. Once a patient finishes active orthodontic treatment, a retainer will help maintain the newly aligned teeth as the bone rebuilds around them. Without a retainer, teeth are likely to shift out of alignment and negate a patient’s orthodontic treatment. People who neglect to wear their retainers as prescribed should expect an unpredictable amount of relapse after their orthodontic treatment, according to a study in the Australian Dental Journal.
While retainers may seem similar to clear aligners, they differ in functionality. Clear aligners are an active orthodontic treatment that moves teeth into alignment in small increments over time. In comparison, retainers mold over teeth tightly to hold them in place rather than move them.
“Retainers are an important part of preventing teeth from relapsing after orthodontic treatment.”
The Process of Receiving a Retainer
Regardless of the type of retainer a patient receives, it is custom-made to fit their smile. Before creating a removable retainer, the patient must have impressions taken with a three-dimensional scan or traditional impression tray and alginate material. Once the impression is complete, our team will use it to create a model of the patient’s teeth. The process of creating a clear retainer involves heating a clear plastic sheet over a model of the patient’s teeth. Wire retainers involve fitting the model with wires and securing it with an acrylic material that hardens before being pressurized and cured. Then we will trim the retainer so that it fits comfortably and polish and sterilize it for use.
The right type of retainer for a patient will depend on multiple factors. Our team will recommend the appropriate type based on the patient’s teeth and why they needed braces. It is also important to consider the patient’s preferences on appearance and their adherence to maintenance and wear time. Most people will wear their retainers for months or years, so it is important to choose one that fits their needs and goals.
“Regardless of the type of retainer a patient receives, it is custom-made to fit their smile.”
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Adjusting to Life With Retainers
Once patients receive their retainers, it is normal to take some time to adjust to this new appliance. Retainers may feel tight and slightly uncomfortable for the first days, but patients will find that their mouths will get used to it quickly. Retainers are only effective when worn, so people must wear them as instructed to achieve optimal results. Patients must also make sure to take proper care of their retainers to ensure that it remains clean and effective.
Proper retainer care includes brushing retainers with a soft-bristled toothbrush every day. Soaking them in a cleaning solution can also remove bacteria. Patients with removable retainers are free to eat what they want, but they must remove their devices before eating or drinking anything. Fixed retainer wearers should avoid eating hard or sticky foods that can damage or break their wires.
“Patients with removable retainers are free to eat what they want, but they must remove their devices before eating or drinking anything.”
Questions Answered on This Page
How Long Retainers Must Be Worn
The length of time that a patient must wear their retainer will vary based on their specific needs. Once orthodontic treatment is complete, most patients will have to wear retainers all the time for about six months. After this, many patients will only have to wear their retainers at night.
We recommend that patients wear some form of retainer indefinitely after completing orthodontic treatment. While this can seem like a big commitment, it is a necessary part of maintaining straight teeth. Even well-made retainers can wear out over time, so it may be necessary to replace the appliance after a few years.
“The length of time that a patient must wear their retainer will vary based on their specific needs.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can retainers stain?
A. Yes. Without proper cleaning, retainers are at risk of yellowing due to plaque buildup and staining foods and drinks. Patients can avoid discoloring their retainers by cleaning them regularly and taking out their retainers while eating and drinking.
Q. What happens if I lose my retainer?
A. Patients that have lost their retainer should contact our team as soon as possible. To have new retainers made, patients must have impressions taken again. In the future, patients should be sure to keep their retainers in a protective case to avoid losing them again.
Q. How do I clean my fixed retainer?
A. Cleaning fixed retainers is a simple process but may take some practice at first. Since they are attached to the patient’s teeth, it is important to floss properly. Without proper maintenance, plaque and tartar can buildup in the fixed retainer.
Q. What will happen if I do not wear my retainers consistently?
A. Patients who do not wear their retainers consistently are likely to experience discomfort when placing them on their teeth. This uncomfortable feeling results from pressure in areas of the mouth that are trying to move teeth back to their original positions.
Q. Will I need check-ups for my retainer?
A. Yes. Retainer check-ups are important for monitoring movement and checking for potential needed improvements. Our team can also provide patients with recommendations and advice for keeping teeth straight.
Get the Care Your Family Deserves
By visiting us as soon as possible, our team can help get you the professional treatment you need. Instead of waiting around and allowing the symptoms to get worse, we can provide you with treatment options.
Call Us Today
If you have had orthodontic treatment, retainers can help you keep your teeth straight. Our team at Precision Orthodontics & Pediatric Dentistry can help. Call us today at 703-783-1489 to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment.
Helpful Related Links
- American Dental Association (ADA). Glossary of Dental Terms. 2021
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