You've worked hard for your beautiful smile; keep it that way!
Finally, your braces have been removed and your smile is beautiful, straight, and best of all, metal-free! However, your orthodontic journey isn't quite completed. To keep your smile looking its best, you'll have to wear a retainer to preserve and stabilize your results. Retainers are needed to control or limit potential changes in tooth position. They are used after braces treatment to hold teeth in their correct alignment while the surrounding gums, bone, and muscle adjust to the new positioning of your teeth.
Types of Retainers
Retainers are custom-made and can be removable or fixed.
- Clear retainers, or Essix retainers, look similar to clear aligners and offer a more aesthetic alternative to wire retainers. This clear retainer may fit over the entire arch of your teeth, or only from canine to canine (clip-on retainer). It is produced from a mold or digital scan of your newly aligned teeth. This style of retainer is the most commonly used style of retainer, as it provides the most coverage of the teeth, protects from grinding teeth, is the lowest cost to the patient and can often be fabricated in one day.
- Traditional or acrylic removable retainers typically include a metal wire that surrounds the front teeth and is attached to an acrylic arch that sits in the roof of the mouth. The metal wires can be adjusted to finish treatment and minor movements of the front teeth as needed. These retainers need periodic adjustments to tighten the wires.
- Fixed or bonded retainers consist of a wire bonded behind the bottom and/or top teeth. These wires rely on the cement and wire to keep the teeth in position. Bonded retainers require excellent home care to keep food and plaque from building up on the teeth. We recommend leaving these retainers in place for life. The cement and/or wire can break, requiring repair or replacement over time.
Pros and Cons
- Removable retainers can be taken out for eating and hygiene routines.
- Removable retainers can be misplaced, so remember to keep yours in the case whenever you remove it to eat or brush.
- A fixed retainer is great if you don't want to keep track of it, or if you don't want to worry about how many hours per day it must be worn.
- Teeth with fixed retainers require extra attention to remove tartar/calculus while flossing. Patients with fixed retainers often must use floss threaders to pass dental floss through the small spaces between the retainer and the teeth.
- Fixed retainers can break and if not repaired in time, the teeth often will move.