Dental Retainers (after Braces)
Dental retainers are orthodontic appliances used to hold a patient's teeth in place after the corrective orthodontic treatment has finished. The orthodontic retainers hold the teeth in their new correct position as the surrounding gums and bone adjust and reform around them, until they are totally stable.
Teeth retainers are made from plastic and stainless steel wire and can be either removable (Hawley, Essix) or fixed. They are custom made orthodontic devices, designed carefully for each individual patient based on a mold of the teeth.
Dental retainers can also be used to treat more minor orthodontic problems such as a small gap or a single slightly misaligned tooth.
Why you need Orthodontic Retainers? - How Dental Retainers work?
When dental braces are removed, the re-positioned teeth have a natural tendency to move back towards their original positions. The purpose of dental retainers is to prevent it by holding teeth to their new positions.
As a child’s jaw and teeth continue to grow after the completion of orthodontic treatment, if a dental retainer is not used, the relative positions of teeth may change again causing new misalignments. Even if the orthodontic treatment has finished, the jaw bone around the moved teeth might not be yet completely reformed. The orthodontic retainers ‘secure’ the tooth to keep it stable until the jaw bone has fully formed. Proper use of dental retainers after the orthodontic treatment will help maintain a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles.
For how long do I have to wear a dental retainer
Orthodontists recommend that the use of dental retainers must start immediately after the braces are removed. Most retainers should be worn 24 hours a day for the first week, and afterwards only at night during sleep. After removing the dental braces, the orthodontist will instruct each patient when to wear the retainer based on the individual’s needs.
The retainers generally have to be worn regularly for a period of 6 months to a year, and then worn periodically (typically during sleep) for as long as the orthodontist recommends. The amount of time the retainer must be worn varies, but many orthodontists recommend teenagers wear their retainers into their early 20s. If a patient does not wear the retainer as recommended, the teeth might move towards their original position (relapse).
Retainers must be removed during sports, while eating any food or drinking staining or acidic beverages.
Problems related to Orthodontic Retainers
- For the first days of wearing a teeth retainer, the patient could feel some discomfort. The mouth may feel sore for a few days. If the retainer causes pain or rubs against your gums, it should be taken to the orthodontist for adjustment in order to fit properly.
- Increased salivation is also usually noticed. The dental retainer, as a foreign body in the mouth, may irritate the salivary glands to produce more saliva.
- Speech may also be affected the first few days of wearing retainers but it will quickly return to normal as the tongue’s movements are adjusted to the presence of the retainer.
- Teeth retainers must be removed during sports to prevent damage.
- Proper regular cleaning of the dental retainers is very important to prevent the accumulation of dental plaque on the retainer’s surface.
Different types of dental retainers
- The best-known type is the Hawley retainer, which is made of a metal wire that surrounds the teeth and keeps them in place. It is anchored in a specially-molded acrylic arch that sits in the palate or floor of the mouth.
- Another common type of orthodontic retainers is the Essix retainer. This clear or transparent dental retainer fits over the entire arch of teeth and is similar in appearance to Invisalign trays.
- A different category of orthodontic retainers are fixed retainers. A fixed retainer typically consists of a passive wire bonded to the tongue-side of the lower incisors. Unlike the other orthodontic retainer types, they can not be removed by the patient.
Dental Retainer Cleaning & Care
Orthodontic retainers are expensive but fragile dental appliances, exposed to the bacteria, dental plaque, and food leftovers in our mouth. You must take extra care to protect them from damage and keep them as clean as possible. A lost or broken appliance can add months to the length of an orthodontic treatment, and increase the cost of orthodontics.
Orthodontic retainer cleaning
The following tips for retainer cleaning can help keep the retainers free of dental plaque bacteria:
- Brush your retainer with toothpaste every time you brush your teeth. Rinse your retainer with water if you can’t brush after meals.
- Disinfect your retainer by soaking it in a special retainer cleaner or a denture cleanser, once a day or at least once a week. Add the cleanser to a cup full of warm – but never hot – water. Thoroughly rinse the retainer with plain water before placing it back in your mouth.
- Sonic retainer cleaners provide deeper cleaning from dental plaque and food particles - where toothbrush's bristles cannot reach.
Protection of dental retainers
- Remove your retainer when playing sports, to protect them from damage.
- Do not ‘play’ with your teeth retainer, by clicking them in and out with your tongue. This could weaken the wires and may cause them to bend or break.
- Do not put your orthodontic retainer in hot water, near a heat source or sunlight. The plastic may break down or warp.
- Store your dental retainers in a hard plastic retainers box, when you have to remove them. They will remain clean and protected.
- Do not loose your retainer. Do not wrap your retainer in a napkin when you are out to eat, put them in a retainer box. This will not only decrease the possibility of leaving them behind when you finish, but will also make the others eat more comfortable.
- Call your orthodontist if you lose, break or have concerns about the fit of your retainer.
Proper care of your teeth retainers can save time and money on costly repairs and remakes.
The cost of orthodontic treatment can be significant and many patients may not afford it if they are not covered by their dental insurance. Learn how to choose a dental insurance plan that will provide the best dental treatment to you and your family.