retainer in case

The Purpose of a Retainer

Retainer with case

Although we would like to think so, orthodontic treatment is not permanent, it is a lifelong process. Treatment will only take up to a few years; however, once completed, you receive an appliance that will be worn for life in order to hold your teeth in their new positions. This appliance is called a retainer. 

What is a Retainer? 

A retainer is an appliance to be used after you finish your orthodontic treatment to maintain your new smile. It is made from either plastic or wire and is molded to fit your teeth. It serves an important role as proper, consistent wear will help you avoid shifting or extra treatment in the future.

Retainer and mold

Without its use, your teeth will experience a movement. This is when your teeth navigate out of alignment since there is no longer any force being placed on them. When you are given the retainer, you will be told how often and how long you must wear your retainer.

The time can vary from person to person, but there is a basic guideline you can follow: for the first year wear 21 hours a day followed by nighttime wear for life. The retainer will be worn more often in the beginning while the bone and tissue strengthen, and it will decrease over time as the teeth set.

How is a Retainer Made? 

When you finish treatment, a mold will be made of your new smile from which the retainer will be made. To achieve this, a digital impression will be taken of your mouth.

This generated impression will then be printed into a 3D model. That model will then be used to create a retainer custom for you. 

Types of Retainers 

Hawley Retainers 

hawley retainer

This is a removable retainer that is made from acrylic and orthodontic wire. The acrylic lays against the roof of the mouth while the wire wraps around the front teeth.

The downfall of this is that the retainer is noticeable when being worn; however, having that wire allows for minor adjustments to be made for any slight movement of the teeth. This is an older type of retainer but due to its adjustability, it is typically given out after phase I treatment. 

Clear Essix Retainers 

Clear Essix Retainers 

This is also a removable retainer, but it is made from a co-polyester material. This is a similar material to Invisalign. Because they are almost invisible when worn and are comfortable to wear, they have been growing more popular and have become the go-to retainer.

Because they wrap around the teeth 360 degrees, they are superior at holding the position of the teeth compared to the Hawley retainers. These retainers, however, are not adjustable or fixable.

If it breaks or the teeth shift, a whole new retainer will need to be made. On the other hand, because they cover the surface of the teeth, these retainers protect teeth from grinding or chipping. 

Bonded Fixed Retainers 

fixed retainer

Unlike the other two, this is a non-removable retainer. This one consists of a thin wire that is bonded with glue to the interior surface of the upper or lower front teeth.

The positive side of this retainer is that there are no compliance issues and the teeth won’t shift. This retainer is usually given out in addition to a removable retainer that will help retain the rest of the teeth. 

How to Care for Your Retainer 

Retainer in case

Whenever you are not wearing your retainer, it should be kept in its case to prevent anything from happening to it. They should be removed to eat, brush your teeth, play team sports, and swim in lakes or oceans and waterparks.

You should clean the retainers with a toothbrush when you brush your teeth, and as needed, you can soak them in Efferdent or a similar cleaner. You should always keep them away from extreme heat such as hot cars, stoves, dishwashers, etc.

This also includes very hot water; do not boil the retainers or wash them in high heat as they can get distorted. If you have pets at home, keep your retainers away from them as they will chew and destroy them! 

Replacing your retainer 

If something happens to your retainer, call immediately so that we can get it replaced as soon as possible. Shifting of the teeth can start occurring after three days of not wearing your retainers! If you were given the 3D model of your teeth, you can bring that into the office so we can get your retainer made faster.

If you do not have it, we will print another one and remake the retainer for you. If you have some shifting in your teeth and want a new retainer, we would have to take a new digital impression of your mouth so we can make a new model and then a new retainer.

If you have clear Essix retainers, they do wear over time. It is recommended that you have them replaced when they start to look worn or have more than three holes in them.

If you’re interested in seeing all the treatment options that are available to you, schedule a free consultation here or give us a call at 215-757-0864.


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