Why Do You Need an Orthodontic Retainer?

Getting Retainers

After removing your braces, you’ll use an orthodontic retainer to hold your teeth in place while your bone and gum adapt to their new positions. Wearing your retainer as directed will help prevent your teeth from returning to where they were when you began your treatment. Retainers may be removable or fixed/permanent.

What Are the Types of Retainers? 

Retainers come in several types, each with its pros and cons. The four most common types of retainers are:

  • Clear (Essix, Vivera) 
  • Fixed/Permanent
  • Hawley

Each of these retainers provides the support your teeth need to stay in place while your jaw and gums adapt to their new positions. Here’s what you need to know about each of these: 

Clear (Essix, Vivera) Retainer

Clear retainers are similar to Invisalign clear aligners in that they are custom-molded acrylic designed to fit your teeth perfectly. These are removable and nearly invisible, making them a popular aesthetic choice. These cover all of your teeth and use gentle, constant pressure to keep them even and straight. Retainers come in various styles and brands, including Essix Retainers and Vivera, but they are all very similar. As with clear aligners, these can be removed for eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing. 

Permanent (Bonded) Retainer

The Permanent Retainer, also known as the Bonded or Fixed Retainer, is a metal wire that is fixed to the back of the teeth. They are most often used on the lower teeth but can be used on the upper teeth. As the name suggests, this type of retainer isn’t removable except by your orthodontist. We sometimes recommend this kind of retainer for patients who may not wear the removable retainers for the amount of time necessary to keep their teeth from moving.  

Hawley Retainers

While we rarely recommend this kind of retainer for our patients, the Hawley Retainer is one of the oldest and most well-known types of retainers. It is removable, which means you can take it out to brush, floss, and eat. It is made of acrylic and wire and is custom-molded to fit your teeth and palate (roof of your mouth). The Hawley Retainer has a wire that fits around your four front teeth. The wire loops in front of the canines, which helps hold your teeth in position as they settle into place.

Retainer Care Tips

Whichever type you get, you’ll want to keep it clean and safe. Your retainer will come with a storage case, and most major retailers carry storage cases if you need more. 

You’ll want to clean your retainer after you’ve removed it for eating, drinking, flossing, or brushing and before you put it back into your mouth. Clean with a soft-bristled toothbrush and water only. Make sure you brush your teeth before putting the retainer back into your mouth.

Never use toothpaste to clean your retainer. It’s too abrasive and can damage or wear down the acrylic over time. This especially applies to the clear retainers, which can take on a cloudy look if toothpaste is used to clean them. 

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