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How Retainers Are Different From Dental Braces

At first glance, many will recognize the similarities between retainers and dental braces. They are both orthodontic devices made from metal components, and they are both designed to keep your smile straight and aligned. However, retainers differ from dental braces in function and design. 

If you use traditional, ceramic, or lingual braces, an orthodontist has glued the braces to your teeth and tightened them to exert continuous pressure on your smile. This process may be painful at first, but it is necessary to correct misalignments or crooked teeth. Unless you are using clear aligners, you won’t be able to remove dental braces without the help of your orthodontist.

In contrast, retainers are less invasive and usually used after treatment with dental braces. Retainers are low-maintenance and easy to remove, making it easier to eat and brush your teeth. While dental braces use sturdier materials such as metal or aluminum oxide, retainers use more malleable materials such as acrylic, flexible polyester, or clear plastic. Clear plastic retainers greatly resemble clear aligners or Invisalign braces. Retainers can also be made of metal, but even metal retainers function differently from dental braces.

Instead of moving your teeth through sustained pressure, retainers are designed to keep your teeth in place. For this reason, orthodontists prescribe them for use after treatment with dental braces. Retainers ensure your teeth do not move from their new aligned position while your gums heal from the pressure exerted on them by braces. 

In addition to post-brace orthodontic treatment, some patients use retainers as a substitute for braces if only one or two teeth are misaligned. Retainers are not capable of treating multiple misalignments at once. In light of this, they are not recommended for severe tooth misalignments, such as dental crowding, overbites, and underbites. 

Retainers and dental braces do not perform the same function, so it’s important to understand when to use each. Neither of them should be used without approval from a licensed dentist or orthodontist. Consult with your dentist or orthodontist before buying braces or a retainer. Only a trained professional has the skills and knowledge to appropriately diagnose and treat dental misalignments or crooked teeth.

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Trabuco Hills Professional Center, 27725 Santa Margarita Parkway, Suite 241, Mission Viejo, CA 92691