Retainers 101

What you need to know about retainers

The Importance of Retainers

Retainers play a pivotal role in maintaining the alignment of your teeth after orthodontic correction. They assist in letting your bone restructure itself after your teeth have shifted and thus ensure the alignment of your teeth remains constant. Our orthodontists at Smile Creations emphasize the importance of adhering to their suggestions regarding retainer usage post-orthodontic treatment, as it is the optimal way to preserve the improvements gained through your treatment.

Our orthodontists will provide tailored advice on whether a fixed (bonded) or removable retainer, or a combination of both, is best for you, and the duration for wearing them. As your teeth reside within bone, a growing and changing material, they can shift even post-orthodontic treatment. This movement is most commonly seen in the lower front teeth. However, regularly wearing your retainers as prescribed can prevent unwanted changes to your smile.

Though slight shifts in your teeth are not a cause for alarm, significant shifts can occur if you do not wear your retainers as directed. Factors such as the eruption of wisdom teeth and others you may not be aware of can cause your teeth to move.

Retainers are arguably the most crucial aspect of orthodontic treatment. This is because teeth naturally tend to shift back to their original position over time. Think of it as muscle memory but for teeth. This is where retainers come in – they ensure your teeth maintain their corrected positions long after braces are removed.

Types of Retainers

Depending on the individual patient’s needs, different types of retainers may be suggested. The two main categories are removable and permanent (also known as fixed). Removable retainers can be taken in and out of the mouth, with the primary types being clear Essix retainers and the wire-based Hawley, each having its own set of advantages and disadvantages.


Removable Essix Retainers

Essix retainers, made from clear material, are more aesthetically pleasing and can typically be manufactured in-office, reducing both cost and waiting time.

Removable Hawley Retainers

The Hawley or wire-based retainer, composed of wire and acrylic, is custom-made by a lab technician, thus slightly more costly. However, its adjustability gives it the potential for a longer lifespan. Both types are to be removed for eating, brushing, and flossing, and after a short period of full-time usage, are recommended for nighttime use for life.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers, consisting of a wire glued to the back of the front teeth, usually complement removable retainers since they do not cover all teeth. They ensure spaces do not reopen and help maintain tooth position. The two main challenges of permanent retainers include difficulty in cleaning and potential breakage of the glue binding the wire to the tooth. Despite these challenges, permanent retainers offer extra security in maintaining the position of your teeth.

Regardless of the type of retainers you use, it’s essential to wear them regularly. They require less effort compared to braces and aid in maintaining the benefits achieved from your orthodontic treatment. Should your retainers be lost, broken, or worn out, visit your orthodontist at Smile Creations immediately to prevent any undesired tooth movement

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