Following orthodontic treatment, retainers play an important role in preserving your beautifully improved smile. They do this by keeping teeth from shifting back to their original positions and holding your teeth in their new positions while your bone, gums, and muscles adapt.
There are different types of retainers: removable retainers and fixed retainers. After braces are removed and reviewing the outcome, our orthodontic team will determine, create, and fit the right type of retainer for the situation.
- Removable Vacuum-formed Retainers: Vacuum-formed Retainers are often called invisible because they look like Invisalign aligners. They are removable, custom-made retainers that cover the teeth completely with a clear plastic. Vacuum-formed retainers are less conspicuous and easier to wear than wire and acrylic retainers.
- Removable Wire & Acrylic Retainers: These are what you think of as traditional retainers. They feature a wire that fits around the front teeth which is attached to a custom acrylic arch that fits into the roof of the mouth. They can be taken out to brush teeth and to clean. Removable retainers are typically worn daily and overnight for several months. Over time, your orthodontist will gradually reduce this to overnight only, then a few nights a week.
- Fixed Retainers: Similar to braces, fixed retainers are bonded directly to teeth—but behind them rather than in front. They can stay on for a specific period or indefinitely depending on the situation. The benefits of a fixed retainer are that they are permanent, so they’re always working—and they can’t get lost! They can be cleaned as part of your child’s regular dental routine (again, like braces), with a little extra attention to flossing to remove food.
During this final phase of orthodontic treatment, it’s essential for retainers to be worn and cared for as directed and to follow good dental hygiene habits in order to maintain the teeth’s health and new positioning.
How do I care for my retainer?
Retainers are like any other orthodontic appliance and must be treated with care. They are also expensive to replace…but with proper care they will last for years! We recommend the following tips to enhance the life of your retainer:
- Wear your retainer as we recommend and rinse it often, especially after eating.
- Retainers are easily damaged and breakable, so treat them with care. If retainers are lost or broken call us immediately.
- Keep retainers away from hot water, hot car dashboards, pockets, the washing machine, as they will distort your retainer.
- Never leave your retainer in a napkin or tissue, because someone might mistakenly throw it away. Also, keep your retainer away from dogs and cats because pets love to chew on them!
- Clean your wire and acrylic retainer daily with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Clean your vacuum-formed retainer daily by soaking in a denture cleaner in a cup of water. Be sure to rinse your retainer thoroughly before putting it back in your mouth.
- For your fixed retainer, be sure to floss and brush it well. If your fixed retainer becomes detached from any of the teeth, please call the office immediately.
- Always bring your retainers to your appointments. When to see your hygienist, ask them to clean with an ultrasonic cleaner to remove any calculus deposits.
- Once we recommend that you wear your retainer less, be sure to keep your retainer in its case to protect it.
How long do I have to wear my retainer?
Initially, your retainer needs to be worn all the time. After a month or so, we will recommend that you decrease your daily wear time. After about 3-6 months, your orthodontist may recommend that you decrease the daily wearing time. This schedule will vary from patient to patient. Because teeth continue to move throughout life, most patients will need to continue some retainer wear indefinitely to maintain the beautiful results.
If you have any questions about retainers or wish to schedule a consultation with one of our dentists, please contact us at our dental office. We proudly serve Norwood, Walpole, and surrounding areas.