Once you’ve completed the hardest part of your orthodontic treatment, and you’re finally free from braces or Invisalign aligners, you deserve to celebrate and show off that new smile. It can be tempting to think that your treatment is completely over, but in reality, you’ve got one more step to go – retainers!
Retainers play an essential role in your orthodontic treatment, which is why we talk so much about them here at Dudley Smiles. There is a phenomenon known as “relapse” that occurs with teeth, where they have a natural tendency to drift back towards their original positions after orthodontic treatment has been completed. Retainers are crucial in preventing this kind of relapse by holding your teeth in the more desirable positions they were moved to with your braces or aligners.
Unfortunately, many patients don’t follow through with wearing their retainer properly, resulting in their teeth shifting back to their old positions. All the time, hard work, and money that was originally spent to straighten them is essentially wasted. That’s before you even take into account choosing to go through braces or Invisalign treatment again to fix the relapse!
A relapse like this is easily avoidable, though. Keeping your smile straight and your teeth in place is as simple as wearing your retainer as directed. But first you’ll need to know what kind of retainer will work best for you and your lifestyle. We’ll take a look below at the different retainers available, and discuss how they can keep your teeth where they’re supposed to be. Keep reading to learn more!
The different types of retainers
Just as orthodontic appliances have both fixed (braces) and removable (clear aligners) options available, there are both fixed and removable retainers. Learning about what each have to offer will further underline why retainers are such an important part of your orthodontic treatment!
The two most common types of removable retainers are the Hawley and Essix retainers. Both types of retainers are custom designed to specifically fit your mouth by using dental molds that are taken following treatment.
The Hawley appliance is one of the oldest and most commonly used retainers, and the one you’d be most likely to recognize. Made of stainless steel, these retainers are kept in place by a wire wrapping around your teeth combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of your mouth. You’ll be encouraged to wear it close to full-time at first, but will often be able to reduce the amount of time you need to wear it after a few months.
Caring for your Hawley retainer
Because this appliance is fairly fragile, you’ll need to take good care of it in order to successfully retain your smile. A new retainer can take a week or more to remake, and each day you go without wearing it runs the risk of setting your progress back. To properly care for your retainer, you should:
- clean it daily to remove bacteria and food debris
- keep it away from heat or hot water
- store it in its case when you’re not wearing it
Cleaning your Hawley retainer
Cleaning your retainer couldn’t be easier! Gently clean it by using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste. Soaking it in denture cleaner a few times per week will also help to freshen it up, as well as kill any germs that may be sitting in the grooves of the mold.
Essix retainers cover the entire arch of the teeth, but like the Hawley, each one is molded to the unique shape of your mouth. These retainers look very similar to the clear aligners used with the Invisalign system. Made entirely of transparent plastic, they’re less noticeable than traditional wire retainers. Being removable means they can be taken out when brushing or flossing, so it’s easy to maintain an excellent dental hygiene routine.
For the first few months, you will likely be instructed to wear your Essix retainer constantly, only taking it out to eat and clean them. After that, you’ll be encouraged to wear them every night for an indefinite period of time.
Caring for your Essix retainer
Even through consistent wear, an Essix retainer should last the entire length of your treatment, as long as you also provide consistent care. To get the most out of your retainer, you should:
- rinse the retainer in cold water every time you take it out and before you put it back in
- store the retainer in a plastic case whenever you aren’t wearing it
- brush the retainer after each meal with cool or lukewarm water and a soft toothbrush
- never put the retainer in hot water, since the heat can shrink it
- wash the retainer with a specialized cleaner once every few months
Sometimes known as permanent,or bonded, retainers, fixed retainers are usually a thin wire worn across the back of the lower or upper front teeth, which is then bonded in place with cement. This type of wire stretches across several teeth, so your oral hygiene routine will be similar to when you were wearing braces. This includes using a floss threader or waterpik to keep the spaces in between the teeth cleaned thoroughly. Whether the retainer is on the upper teeth, lower teeth, or both, it’s a simple procedure.
Although a fixed retainer is slightly more work, it will often have the best outcome since the bonded wire holds the newly straightened teeth in perfect formation constantly. It can also be a helpful option for patients who have, or have had, a large space between the two upper front teeth. After orthodontic treatment is finished, and the space is completely closed, a fixed retainer can be used to keep the space closed.
In some special situations, it may be necessary for us to use both permanent and removable retainers together to ensure a relapse doesn’t occur.
Keeping your smile straight with Dr. Si and Dudley Smiles
Here at Dudley Smiles, we’re dedicated to finding exactly the right orthodontic treatment for you, your smile, and your lifestyle. This includes finding the type of retainer most appropriate for your particular case. Whether your braces will be coming off soon, you’ve just completed the braces or Invisalign portion of your treatment, or simply want more information on retainers, we’re here to answer your questions, discuss your concerns, and offer advice. With conveniently located offices in Issaquah and Kent, and a friendly, fun-loving staff, we’re here to give you the kind of straight smile that will last a lifetime, so get in touch today to find out how!