woman with braces smiling

Retainers: What They Are, How They Work, and How to Care for Them

woman with braces smiling

If braces are part of your or someone you know’s journey to straight teeth, then you’ve probably heard of retainers. But what exactly are they and why are they necessary? We have all the answers you need.

Retainers are custom-fit dental appliances that you wear after braces. They prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original positions, especially during the transition period when your tissues and bones have not yet fully adjusted to the new alignment. Retainers are custom-fitted so that they snugly fit your teeth, and they can either be removable or fixed.

But what if your orthodontic case is mild, and you don’t need braces at all? In cases like these, your orthodontist may recommend a removable clear retainer, also known as an aligner. This retainer looks like an invisible brace and is made from clear plastic that fits over the teeth, similar to a clear brace such as Invisalign. You can remove the aligner when it’s time to eat and clean your teeth.

The Different Types of Retainers

There are different types of retainers available. The most common type of retainer is called a Hawley retainer, named after its inventor. This type of retainer consists of a metal wire connected to an acrylic plate that holds the teeth in place.  This retainer is removable and needs to be worn every day for best results. It’s also easy to clean by brushing the wire and acrylic with a toothbrush.

Another option is the clear aligner retainer, which is a transparent plastic tray that is virtually invisible. Lastly, there is the fixed bonded retainer, which is a wire attached to the back of your front lower teeth. This one is not removable, but it’s always in your mouth.

To keep your retainer clean, it’s important to regularly sanitize it with a denture solution if it’s removable. You can also use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove any debris. Remember to store your retainer in its box to protect it from damage or loss.

The duration of wearing a retainer depends on your dentist’s recommendation. Typically, you’ll need to wear it full-time for at least three to six months after braces are removed. After that, wearing it only at night for a year is advised. Some dentists may suggest wearing a retainer for as long as you wore braces, while others recommend wearing it a few nights a week for life.

To ensure the best results, it’s important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions and properly care for your retainer. If you have any questions or concerns, always consult with your orthodontist.

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