Getting braces is just the first step in the process of attaining your perfect smile. You can run a marathon to get in shape, but the long-term effects come from continuing to work out your muscles. It is the same way with teeth.
After receiving orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign, your orthodontist may recommend the use of a retainer. A retainer is a device worn over the teeth to prevent them from shifting out of position. We offer a number of custom-made devices to maintain your beautiful smile and make the results of your orthodontic treatment last your lifetime.
There are three basic types of retainers available today; each works best in particular situations. The most common is the so-called “Hawley” retainer — a thin, tongue-shaped piece of acrylic molded to fit your mouth, with a wire that holds your teeth in position. The Hawley retainer is simple, durable and easily removed. It's even possible to personalize it by choosing different colors and designs for the plastic arch. It can also be adjusted to correct minor tooth movements.
Another popular style of retainer is the clear aligner-type, which looks similar to the Invisalign® tray system. These retainers are custom-made of thin, transparent plastic which is designed to fit precisely over your teeth. Their main advantage is that they're invisible, with no wire to show. These retainers are also easy to remove, but they may be somewhat less durable than the Hawleys. They aren't recommended for patients with certain conditions, like teeth grinding.
Finally, fixed retainers may be an option for some people, especially on the lower front teeth. As their name implies, they aren't removable by the wearer — but they aren't visible either. This system uses a wire which is bonded to the tongue side of the teeth. It may remain in place for months, or longer. This type of retainer is sometimes recommended when there's a high risk that teeth could revert to their former position.
A Period of Adjustment
After a short time, most people adjust quite well to wearing a retainer. Some may find that they produce more saliva than usual for a day or so after first wearing any type of retainer — a normal reaction to a foreign object in the mouth. You may also find it a little harder to talk normally at first, but that problem will soon disappear. Of course, removable retainers should always be taken out when you eat or brush your teeth — a big change from braces!
Maintaining — and Retaining — Your Retainer
- Wear your retainer only at night unless told otherwise.
- Keep your retainer in its case when not in use.
- Keep your retainer in its case when not in use.
Do NOT place your retainer in a napkin. ALWAYS brush your retainer with toothpase when you take it out. You may also soak your retainer in half Listerine and half water for a few minutes each day. ALWAYS place your retainer back into its case when not in use.
To stay fresh and germ-free, all retainers need proper cleaning. A Hawley-type retainer can be brushed gently with a regular toothbrush — but a brush may scratch the clear aligner types. Denture cleaners, in powder or tablet form, as well as special retainer cleaners, can be used to clean most removable retainers. Fixed retainers are cleaned by brushing and flossing; a floss threader or interproximal brush can also be a helpful cleaning tool when needed.
Finally, remember to always carry — and use — a retainer case. You'd be surprised how many retainers end up folded in a napkin and accidentally discarded! Also, don't expose your retainer to excess heat by washing it in very hot water or leaving it on a heater: That can cause the retainer to warp and make it unusable. With proper care and conscientious use, a retainer can help you transition from braces to a permanent, healthy smile.
When Should You Wear a Retainer
After an orthodontic treatment is finished, it is still important to take care of your teeth to ensure your teeth stay in their correct positions. We recommend wearing retainers every night, but we may advise a unique regimen depending on your particular needs. Our team will take a mold of your teeth to customize a retainer for your mouth. We will also provide clear instructions on when to use the retainer, so you can protect the smile you always wanted and now have.
Retainers are a form of insurance for your teeth. Teeth will often shift back to their incorrect positions when you stop wearing braces if they are left alone. Retainers ensure that you keep your teeth straight so you don’t have to come back for additional treatment. Building the habit of wearing your retainer will take practice. We recommend using a bright container by your bedside so you don’t forget. It can be hard to consistently wear retainers, but we promise it will significantly decrease the need for a new orthodontic treatment in the future.
Our staff at LADD Orthodontics can help clarify why you will need a retainer. With our friendly advice, you can rest assured knowing your well-earned smile will remain intact.