Once you complete the active part of your orthodontic treatment teeth are in their final straight position. However, they are still not 100% secure and stable in their new straight position. Retainer is an appliance worn after removal of your braces to keep your teeth in their final straight position. Full time retainer wear is indicated for the first 6 months, and night time wear thereafter to keep teeth in their final position. There are different types of retainers (removable vs. bonded). The type of retainer is decided on by your orthodontist based on factors involving your retention needs.
Essix (Clear) Retainers:
Essix retainer has become a major alternative to traditional spring Hawley retainers. Essix retainers are made out of clear material and are removable type of retainers that cover all your teeth; no other type of retainers can do that. The reason for their popularity is the obvious esthetic; they are made out of clear material, similar to Invisalign (so no messy metal part or wires). Not only it is more comfortable to wear, it takes much less time, initially, to be able to speak normally with them in, since they are less bulky than Hawley. Also, it is important to note that because they are more esthetic they are not as sturdy as Hawley retainers. So, more care is needed in handling them.
The Hawley retainers are traditionally the most common type of retainers. It is the most popular among the younger age group since they have the option to pick the color and design they like. It is constructed using acrylic (plastic) covering the inside part of your teeth and a metal wire on the outside of certain teeth. This is the least esthetic type of retainers, since the metal part and the wires are visible. Dr. Rashidi recommends to speak and read out-loud at the beginning when you get them so you can get back to speaking with them normally as soon as possible. More care and attention must be used in putting this type of retainer on! If the retainer is not fully seated and the acrylic and the wires of Hawley are not touching your teeth intimately it can lead to relapse (crooked teeth) again.
Orthodontics, as a whole, is moving away from bonded retainers due to the present difficulty with maintaining good oral hygiene with this type of retainer. It makes flossing and brushing the area where the bonded retainer is more difficult; similar to the time you had braces. Bonded retainers are physically bonded only to inside of your front teeth. Note that with this type of retainer the back teeth are not retained and can move! While it is great where you don't have to remember wearing retainers ever again, it becomes of utmost important to be very careful on how and what you are chewing on. Another important factor is the maintenance of good oral hygiene around the bonded retainer. Based on research it take about 5 minutes to start the process of calculus formation around your teeth after eating, and the wire of the bonded retainer can act as a plaque trap. So, keeping the bonded retainer thoroughly clean after each time you eat is super important.
Tips for caring for your Retainer:
- Wear your retainers full time unless Dr. Rashidi tells you otherwise.
- When eating take your retainers out and always put retainers in their case! (Lunch rooms or restaurants are where most retainers are lost.)
- It is important to clean your retainers once a day with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Make sure you use warm but not hot water since it can deform your retainer. Removing plaques from your retainers eliminates unwanted odor (halitosis). Orthodontic appliance cleaners, such as Efferdent®, can be used. But, they do not take the place of thoroughly cleaning and brushing them to keep them void of plaque. (Important: After mixing Efferdent in hot water let it cool down to room temperature before soaking your retainers in the solution).
- Retainers should ALWAYS be kept in the retainer case when they are not in your mouth!
- At first you may find speaking a little bit challenging. To get used to them faster Dr. Rashidi recommends speaking, reading, or singing out loud.
- Please care for your retainers, because retainers are breakable. Call us immediately if retainers are lost or broken.
- Never try to adjust them yourself. If retainers need adjusting or you have any questions or concerns about your retainers, please don’t hesitate to call us. It is important to always bring your retainers to your appointments for evaluation.
- Retainer replacement is costly... take care of them very well so they will last for years!
- When swimming make sure to remove your retainers, because they will sink!
Retainers should always be kept away from hot car dashboards, hot water, pockets, the washing machine, and napkins.