Preserving and stabilizing the result of your orthodontic treatment is known as “retention” and the appliances used for this purpose are called “retainers”. Almost every individual who has undergone orthodontic care will need to wear some type of a retainer.
There are two major kinds of orthodontic retainers. A removable retainer is one that can be taken in and out of the mouth, while a permanent retainer is fixed or bonded to the back of the teeth. Before removing your braces our orthodontist will explain which of the available retainer options you will need to maintain your smile.
Removable retainers come in two forms. A Hawley retainer is the most traditional orthodontic retainer. It is typically an acrylic based appliance with a single wire that sits in front of the teeth to maintain the corrections along with some small clasps to stabilize it in the mouth. The other type of removable retainer is a vacuform “invisible” retainer, which is called an Essix retainer. This retainer looks similar to a clear custom bleaching tray or dental aligner. It is made of a thin transparent plastic that is fabricated to precisely fit over the teeth and prevent any unwanted shifting. While a Hawley retainer has the advantages of being quite durable and easy to adjust, an Essix retainer is less visible and can be easier to adapt to wearing.
In some cases a fixed retainer may be recommended to maintain a corrected smile. A fixed retainer is a special thin wire that is bonded to the back of the front teeth. It remains in place all of the time and does not show at all when you smile. This type of retainer is a good option when there’s a high risk that teeth could revert to their former position, especially the lower front teeth. A fixed retainer provides excellent stability, but requires extra care to keep the teeth and gums around the appliance clean.
At the time your retainers are inserted, we will provide you with detailed guidelines for wearing these appliances as well as directions as to how to clean and care for them.