What are Retainers?
A retainer is an important item for patients whose braces have just been removed. Retainers are specialized mouth pieces that are custom-molded to each patient’s teeth. They retain, or hold the teeth in place to prevent shifting after braces are removed. If a patient fails to wear his or her retainer, the teeth face the risk of relapsing, or shifting back to their original positions over time. This could result in the need for braces later in life.
Wearing a Retainer
Immediately after the removal of braces, patients will be instructed to wear their custom-made retainer. The frequency and duration of retainer wear will be determined by the patient’s orthodontist. The patient is often instructed to wear a retainer all day and all night during the first weeks or months after the braces are removed.
How to Use Retainers
After the initial intensive period, the orthodontist will often advise that the patient wear the retainer during the night only. Debate exists over the duration of retainer use. Some orthodontists recommend a year of nighttime retainer wear, while some recommend wearing a retainer every night for the remainder of the patient’s life in order to prevent possible relapse.
Types of Retainers after Braces
The main types of retainers after braces include removable retainers and fixed retainers. Removable retainers such as Hawley retainers and clear retainers can be removed when eating or cleaning the teeth. Fixed retainers are bonded to the back of the teeth, and are therefore permanent unless removed by an orthodontist. Have questions? Call us at 407-699-1200
Hawley retainers are the most common type of retainer. Hawley retainers are made of clasps and wires that are embedded in a plastic mold that covers the roof of the patient’s mouth. Lower Hawley retainers cover the back of the patient’s teeth and part of the gums. The clasps grasp onto the back teeth to anchor the retainer. A “bow” wire spans across the front teeth to keep them in alignment.
As the name indicates, clear retainers are made of thin, clear plastic that is less visible than standard retainers. Clear retainers are vacuum-formed based on a cast of the teeth. Due to the materials used, clear retainers typically have a shorter lifespan than Hawley retainers.
Fixed retainers are also referred to as permanent retainers. Fixed retainers are unseen by others, which presents a benefit for patients who prefer a less noticeable retainer. However, it should be noted that fixed retainers are only applied to the front teeth, typically the six front-most teeth. As a result, the back teeth may experience shifting over time.
Randy Gittess graduated from Medical College of Virginia in Richmond to become a Doctor of Dental Sergury and later discovered his passion for orthodontics and went on to specialize in Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia where he received his certificate in orthodontics. Dr. Gittess is also Certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, a special distinction among orthodontists.
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