What Is a Retainer and Who Needs It?
What Is a Retainer and Who Needs It?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that is worn after braces, and other orthodontic appliances come off. It is custom-made out of plastic and metal for each patient, and it fits on the top of the teeth and mouth.

Any patient who has undergone orthodontic treatment needs to wear a retainer.

Why Is a Retainer Needed After Orthodontic Treatment?

You can blame genetics for crooked teeth or a misaligned bite. If you don’t use a retainer after braces your teeth will revert to the way they were before orthodontic treatment. If you ignore the retainer, an orthodontic relapse will occur which might require extensive treatment to fix. The teeth will shift in the years following braces removal, but their extent of shifting will depend on how regularly you wear the retainers.

5 Reasons Why Are Retainers Important?

Here’s how retainers help in your orthodontic treatment:

  • They Stabilize Your Bite

Once your braces are removed, the soft tissue and bone around your teeth need time to adapt to the changes made in tooth positioning. They slowly stabilize in their new arrangement, and once that occurs, the likelihood of relapse or having the teeth shift out of their positions is minimal.

  • They Maintain Space for Wisdom Teeth and New Teeth

Braces are most commonly worn by preteens and teenagers, whose bodies are still developing. So, they would use retainers for teeth around the same time when wisdom teeth erupt. When they use the retainer diligently, there will be the necessary space maintained in their jaw to accommodate new teeth like wisdom teeth. Constant use of retainers ensures that the teeth don’t shift or crowd due to lack of space.

  • They Prevent Treatment Reversal

The teeth will start moving back to their old position in the months following the removal of braces. A retainer can prevent the reversal. However, depending on your case, you may be required to wear a retainer for a couple of years.

  • They Align Your Jaw Bones With Gums

When your teeth are being aligned to a new position, the gums and bones surrounding the teeth will take longer to follow suit. Retainers help in accelerating alignment and stabilizing your bite.

  • They Help Teeth Hold Their Position

If you use braces to correct the gaps in the teeth, it will take a longer time for the teeth to stabilize. This can hold true even for severely displaced teeth, large overbites, and underbites. It is important to hold the teeth, which need to be moved a considerable distance or repositioned significantly and firmly in their new spaces until the mouth can adapt to these changes. The retainer helps in achieving this.

What Are the Types of Retainers?

1.     Permanent Fixed Lingual Retainers

A fixed lingual retainer has a wire bonded to the back of your teeth. It is typically recommended for people whose teeth were too rotated, crowded, and had a lot of spacing between them before the orthodontic treatment. The best thing about a fixed retainer is that it is a permanent retainer (cemented to your teeth), and you have no option of taking it out. However, they can be difficult to clean, leading to plaque buildup over time, causing dental issues later on. So, make sure to clean it carefully.

2.     Removable Hawley Wire Retainers

These retainers are one of the most popular types of retainers. They are made from bendable wire and plastic or acrylic material. The wire goes across the front side of the teeth, and the plastic or acrylic portion is customized to fit snugly within your mouth. They are generally prescribed for both upper and lower teeth. With these retainers, you have the choice of selecting from a wide variety of styles and colors. Since this type of retainer is easily adjustable, your orthodontist has the flexibility of tweaking them as required post braces for better results. The structure of a Hawley retainer allows the teeth to touch in a natural way, which adds to your comfort. With proper care, these can last for a long time. They are comparatively easy to clean.

3.     Clear Plastic Retainers

These are removable retainers that are designed to fit your newly positioned teeth perfectly. They are made of molded clear plastic and are similar to Invisalign aligners. They are also referred to as molded retainers. These are one of the most preferred types of retainers as they are virtually invisible as compared to the Hawley retainers. Other advantages are that they are less bulky and less likely to affect your speech. However, unlike the Hawley retainers, they don’t allow the upper and lower teeth to touch naturally, which might be considered as a drawback by some people. The retainers have a shorter lifespan comparatively as the plastic eventually wears out and may even crack.

How Long Do You Need to Wear a Retainer?

The average period for wearing removable retainers is at least 12 months after the removal of your braces, and you might have to wear your retainer full time for the first 4-6 months.

But each orthodontic treatment is unique, and the exact duration of your retainer wear is dependent on the type of orthodontic correction you have received.

How to Take Care for Your Retainers?

  • The first step to caring for your retainers is maintaining a strict oral hygiene routine, just like you would with your braces.
  • Follow the instructions carefully regarding wearing, cleaning, and storing your retainers.
  • If you are wearing fixed retainers, you need to make sure you floss between the wires which are attached to your teeth so that there’s no plaque buildup on it.
  • If you are wearing removable retainers, wash your retainers with lukewarm water after eating or drinking anything. You can also use toothpaste and your toothbrush to clean them.