Retainers are dental appliances that aid in straightening the teeth, particularly after braces. Wearing a retainer can help keep the teeth aligned and prevent them from shifting back to their original position after braces come off, making them an important tool in orthodontics.
When Retainers Are Used
Retainers are most often used to maintain the position of your teeth after braces are removed. Once an orthodontist removes your braces, your teeth may begin to shift back to their original position. To prevent this, your orthodontist will likely recommend you wear a retainer after your braces come off for several months to a year. Be sure to ask about the specific length of time you’ll need to wear a retainer for it to be effective, as treatment times vary.
Another use for retainers is to slowly move the teeth into a more desirable position. However, they can only be used for small corrections that don’t require traditional orthodontic treatments, such as braces.
In some cases, orthodontic patients will only be given a single retainer for the top arch of teeth or the bottom arch of teeth. In other cases, retainers for both the top and bottom arches might be necessary.
Types of Retainers
Retainers may be permanent or removable. Clear medical grade plastic removable retainers are the most common type of retainer used, but your dentist’s recommendation will depend on the ultimate treatment goals and the position of your teeth.
Bonded retainers are permanent retainers used to help support newly straightened teeth. Bonded retainers are made of wire that is bonded to the outer side of your teeth and must be removed by a dentist or orthodontist. They’re often recommended for patients who may not follow the directions for a removable retainer on a regular basis, such as children.
Hawley retainers are removable retainers that use both wire and medical grade plastic. They consist of a medical grade plastic component that is reinforced at the outer edge of the teeth with wire to keep teeth aligned. Although this type of retainer may be slightly more noticeable than clear medical grade plastic retainers, it can last far longer and can be adjusted by your dentist if necessary.
Other Clear Acrylic Retainers
Clear medical grade plastic retainers are virtually invisible and can be easily removed. These types of retainers are custom-fitted around a mould of your teeth and need to be worn regularly to keep the teeth aligned. Clear medical grade plastic aligners need to be replaced more often than bonded retainers or Hawley retainers (usually about once a year). This makes them a good option if you will only need a retainer for a few months or a few years after having braces removed.
Wearing Your Retainer
If you have a removable retainer(s), you’ll need to wear it regularly to ensure the treatment works as intended. Most brands recommend wearing the retainer for most or all of the day, including while you sleep.
However, you will need to remove it when you are eating. It can also be beneficial to remove retainers while drinking anything other than water, as sugary or acidic substances can become trapped under the retainer and sit on your teeth.
The long-term duration of treatment can vary widely. In some cases, orthodontists may recommend that you wear your retainer for the rest of your life to avoid the teeth moving due to chewing and wear. In other cases, you’ll only need to wear it for a few months to a few years.
Caring for Your Retainer
Like your natural teeth, retainers can eventually build up with bacteria and other particles that can be harmful to the tooth enamel. It can also cause a retainer to break or crack. To prevent damage from occurring, it’s important to clean your retainer regularly.
A great way to ensure you’re cleaning your retainer regularly is to clean it whenever you brush your teeth. Brush your retainer at least once a day. A soft-bristled toothbrush and non-whitening toothpaste will gently but thoroughly clean it.
However, be sure not to use mouthwash on your retainer too often, or it can dry it out and cause cracking.
Find an Orthodontic Treatment Provider Near You
If you’re looking for orthodontic advice, diagnosis, or treatment, find a dentist or orthodontist near you using the 123Dentist network of dental care providers. Our orthodontists across Canada have retainer options to fit your treatment plan, lifestyle, and budget.