What is an Orthodontic Retainer?
A retainer is a custom-made appliance that needs to be worn once you have finished straightening your teeth and have had your braces removed. This helps to prevent the chance of a relapse, where the straightened teeth will begin to return to their original positions. In addition retainers can also be used to treat minor orthodontic issues. Some retainers are removable while others are bonded into position on the inside of the teeth where they are virtually invisible. Some people may be recommended to wear more than one type of retainer to help prevent the chance of a relapse. Most people will need to wear a retainer all of the time for at least the first three months after having the braces removed. After this the retainer needs to be worn regularly, generally every night for the rest of your life.
Why Is It Important to Wear a Retainer?
The reason why it's so important is that even though the teeth have been straightened they won't be completely settled into their new positions, as the surrounding bone, gums and facial muscles need to adapt to the changes that have been made. Additionally teeth can sometimes shift back into their original positions, even after they have been straightened quite some time ago. It is not uncommon for adults who had orthodontic treatment as children to find their teeth begin to shift position many years later, especially if they have been lax about wearing their retainer.
What Are the Different Types of Retainers?
There are two main types of retainers that are likely to be prescribed. These are:
- Removable/Essix Retainers - This is a popular type of removable retainer that looks a little like a clear plastic aligner tray. Essix retainers have no wires and are very unobtrusive. They are inexpensive and easy to wear and fit comfortably over the teeth. Most patients find them very easy to use.
- Fixed/Bonded Retainers - This type of retainer is bonded directly onto the inside surfaces of your teeth so that they cannot be seen. Some patients prefer this type of retainer as it is bonded permanently in the position eliminating the risk of forgetting to wear a retainer. People who use this type of retainer do need to take care when biting into foods as sometimes the bonding material used to fix the retainer in position can begin to break down.
How Do I Care For My Retainer?
You will need to clean your retainer each time you remove it from your mouth. Essix retainers can simply be brushed and rinsed. Fixed retainers need to be cleaned more carefully since they cannot be removed, you will probably need to spend some extra time brushing around this area