Here at Murray & Olson Orthodontics, we love to celebrate when a patient’s treatment is finally complete! Seeing a beautiful new smile revealed once the braces come off or the last aligner is used is a wonderful feeling, and we never get tired of how happy our patients are with their results. It’s exciting to say goodbye to the active phase of treatment, but our work’s not done just yet—it’s time for the retention phase! Continue reading to learn all you need to know about retainers.
Retainers are an essential part of the orthodontic process, and the reason for that is hidden in the name—they retain a patient’s newly straightened smile. It takes time for the bones and tissue around the teeth to reorganize and adjust to the movements that were made throughout treatment. Without something holding them in place, the teeth will begin to drift back to their original positions. That’s why retention is such a critical follow-through stage! To learn more about what retainers are and how they keep your smile in place, keep reading below.
The basics of retainers
Like braces and aligners, a retainer is one type of orthodontic appliance. Once the active phase of treatment is complete, our expert team will use an impression scan of your newly straightened teeth to create a customized retainer. Retainers can be made from a clear plastic material or using wire and acrylic. As we’ve briefly explained, wearing a retainer regularly will help prevent a phenomenon known as “relapse.” This term describes the natural tendency of the teeth to drift back to their original positions even after successful orthodontic treatment.
Relapse occurs most often in the late teens and early twenties, but it can happen at any time. That’s because your teeth will always remember their original place in your mouth; once the persistent pressure of braces or aligners is removed, they’ll begin shifting back towards those spaces. This is why it’s so important to wear your retainer exactly as directed by Dr. Murray or Dr. Olson. Failure to do so may result in all your hard-earned progress becoming undone over time.
Being fitted for a retainer will usually happen on the same day your braces are removed or after you’ve used your last aligner. After thoroughly cleaning your teeth, we may take another set of x-rays or scans to check that everything is where we want it to be. Following this, we’ll get your retainer ready and discuss how often you should wear it immediately following treatment.
What are the different types of retainers?
There are a few different types of retainers to choose from. Our doctors will look at your specific needs, your preference, and the level of expected compliance when determining which is best for your smile.
A fixed retainer consists of a thin wire that’s been positioned across the interior surface of the lower or upper front teeth, then bonded into place with glue. This wire stretches across several teeth, so good dental hygiene will require a little extra effort, particularly when it comes to flossing. It does tend to have the best outcome overall, however— the bonded wire does a fantastic job keeping newly straightened teeth in place. As an extra bonus, you never have to remember to wear it (or worry about losing it!)
We have a couple of options available when it comes to removable retainers. The Hawley retainer is made of a wire and acrylic material, and the Essix retainer is composed of a clear plastic material similar to the kind used with Invisalign aligners. Both of these are custom-made to fit your mouth following the first phase of orthodontic treatment.
Hawley retainers are one of the oldest and most recognizable styles. They’re kept in place by a wire that wraps around the teeth, which is then combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of the mouth. The stainless steel wires can continue to be adjusted to achieve minor movement of the front teeth if needed.
While many orthodontists are currently moving away from this more traditional retainer, it can still be very useful in some cases! If you’re given a Hawley retainer, you should follow these recommendations to ensure it’s being properly cared for.
- Gently brush the retainer with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste. Do this daily to remove any food debris and bacteria.
- Soak the retainer in a denture cleaner a few times per week to help kill germs and freshen it up.
- Keep your retainer away from heat or hot water to protect the shape.
- Store it in its case when you are not wearing it.
Essix retainers have been growing in popularity with both orthodontists and patients in the past several years! They’re made of a transparent plastic material, and look similar to the trays that are used with the Invisalign system. An Essix retainer will be molded to the unique shape of your mouth and is much less noticeable than a traditional wire retainer. It should also last as long as you need it, provided you take good care of it. That care includes:
- rinsing the retainer in cold water each time you take it out
- rinsing the retainer before you put it back in your mouth
- storing the retainer in a plastic case whenever you’re not wearing it
- gently brushing the retainer after each meal, using a soft toothbrush
- only using cool or lukewarm water on the retainer
- never placing the retainer in hot water or near a heated surface
- washing the retainer with a specialized cleaner once every few months
It’s very easy to keep your teeth and gums clean with either of these removable retainers. They make dental hygiene a cinch to take care of, but you will have to remember to wear them exactly as directed. To avoid misplacing or damaging your retainer, be careful when handling it and be mindful of where it is at all times.
Keep your teeth in place with retainers from Murray & Olson Orthodontics
Many experts now agree that most patients will need to wear some type of retainer part-time indefinitely. This is the best way to achieve a lifetime of beautiful smiles, but don’t let this recommendation worry you! Your retainer will become just another part of your daily routine in no time.
The team here at Murray & Olson Orthodontics is committed to finding exactly the right treatment for your special smile, and that includes the best retainer for you! Wherever you are in the treatment process, our goal is to provide customized care and unmatched service. Have questions or concerns about your treatment plan or retainer use? Get in touch! We’re here to help keep your smile in place for years to come.