What are Retainers?
Retainers are an orthodontic apparatus made of plastic and metal components or only plastic that help to hold the teeth in their correct position after orthodontic braces are removed. This allows the teeth to settle down properly within the soft tissues and jaws. Retainers are custom-made to fit the teeth and mouth of the individual patient.
Uses of Retainers
After orthodontic treatment, there is a high likelihood that the newly realigned teeth may move from their position during chewing or growth. So, retainers are mainly used to help the teeth remain in their new position. Other uses include:
- Preventing tongue thrust
- Treatingtemporomandibular disorder (TMD)
- Stabilizing bite
- Alignment of the jawbones with gums
- Maintaining space for wisdom teeth and new teeth
Types of Retainers
Retainers are mainly of 2 types, they are:
- Removable Retainers: These can be removed easily and fixed back into position by the patient. The sub-types of removable retainers are:
- Hawley Retainers: This is the most common type of removable retainer made of a plastic portion that fits onto the roof or floor of the mouth and a metal wire portion that fits across the outer side of the teeth to provide proper support.
- Clear Plastic Retainers: Also known as molded retainers, clear plastic retainers are designed in a way to perfectly fit onto the newly positioned teeth. These are virtually invisible retainers as they do not contain any metal component.
- Permanent Retainers: They are made of a solid or braided wire that is cemented behind the inner surface of the teeth to keep them in position. They are not visible to others and do not affect speech.
How Often Do You Need to Wear a Retainer?
Removable retainers should be worn after the braces are removed for anywhere between 4 to 12 months. They should be worn throughout the day and night and only be removed while cleaning your teeth and eating. Permanent retainers may need to be worn for several years or permanently depending on the condition of the patient.
How to Take Care of Retainers?
Always keep your retainer clean as it helps to extend the lifespan of the retainer. You will be given specific instructions by your dentist which may include the following:
- Never put your removable retainer in your pocket or purse as it could get damaged. Always store it in your removable retainer case.
- Avoid storing your removable retainer near a heat source such as a stove or in a hot car as it could get softened and change shape.
- Check with your dentist if you can eat or drink when wearing your removable retainer.
- Clean your removable retainer with a soft bristle toothbrush and soak in water to prevent it from drying.
- Use floss, toothbrush and toothpaste, and an interproximal brush (a brush that cleans the proximal surfaces between two adjacent teeth) to keep the permanent retainer clean.