What are retainers and why do you need them?
Retainers do what their name says, they retain the position of your teeth over time. A retainer is an appliance custom fit to your teeth to maintain their position and alignment. There are several different types of retainers, but all of them serve the same purpose of keeping your teeth in position. It can take approximately 3-4 months for your teeth to stabilize in their new position, but even after 3-4 months, your teeth will shift if you stop wearing your retainer (sometimes within just a few days). Teeth might not have brains, but they typically want to go back to the position where they started. Retainers prevent that from happening, and although you might not be visiting our office regularly during the retention phase, it is extremely important that you continue to wear your retainers night time for a lifetime to maintain the alignment of your teeth.
Types of Retainers
There are two different categories of retainers: removable retainers and bonded retainers. Both are custom-made and designed specifically for your teeth.
- Essix retainers look similar to clear aligners and offer a more esthetic alternative to wire retainers.
- Traditional removable retainers, also referred to as Hawley retainers, typically include a metal wire that surrounds the front teeth and is attached to an acrylic portion that sits in the roof of the mouth for the top retainer and on the tongue side for the bottom retainer.
A bonded retainer consists of a wire that is bonded or glued behind the bottom front 6 teeth and/or top 2 front teeth. You can't see the wire from the front, and we show you how to floss and clean around it. You still need to wear your removable retainer even if you have a bonded retainer, but some people like to think of a bonded retainer as "insurance" or a back-up in case they lose or break their removable retainer.
How are Essix retainers made?
We take a 3D scan of your teeth, print the 3D model of your teeth in our office, then use a thermal-forming machine to make your custom-made removable retainer. We then polish the edges to make sure you have a comfortable and esthetic retainer.
Caring for your retainers
- Make sure you take your retainers out properly. With clean hands, remove the retainer using both hands and pulling from both sides in the back simultaneously. If you only pull on one side, you can crack the retainer in the middle.
- Remove your retainers when eating, when drinking anything other than normal water (no sparkling water with retainers in, because it is acidic), and when brushing and flossing.
- Keep your retainers in their case or in a safe place away from pets when you are not wearing them! Pets love retainers for some reason and are often the culprits of lost or broken retainers. Also, placing retainers on a paper towel or tissue is a common way for them to end up in the trash can.
- Clean your retainers regularly using a soft toothbrush dipped in water, soapy water, or Listerine. Avoid using toothpaste to clean your retainers, as it is abrasive and can cause some cloudiness. Feel free to use a denture cleaner tablet or retainer cleaner tablet as needed (once a week should be more than sufficient).
- Avoid the heat! Make sure your retainers are not left somewhere that is hot, such as a warm car (dashboard, glove compartment or center console), dryer, dishwasher, or microwave.