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Retainer: Uses, Types, And Proper Care | Hawaii Family Dental

Written by Danica Lacson on September 29, 2018

What is a Retainer?

When the treatment is nearing its end, the dentist usually recommends the use of retainers. Retainers are utilized to hold the straightened teeth in place, while the gums and bones surrounding them adjust to the new position.

Why is a Retainer used?

Retainers are recommended because there remains a risk of relapse after treatment due to several reasons like the recoil of periodontal fibers, pressure from the surrounding soft tissues, occlusion, the continued development of patients.

What are the types of retainers?

Retainers can either be removable or fixed which include Hawley, vacuum-formed and bonded or fixed retainers.

Hawley retainer

Hawley is the most well-known removable retainer type. It consists of a metal wire which surrounds the six anterior teeth and incorporated with two omega loops for adjustments. The wire is anchored on an acrylic baseplate that sits on the roof of the mouth.

The Hawley retainer is adjustable to continue minor movement of the anterior teeth when needed. It is also rigid and robust, easy to construct, and allows the addition of prosthetic tooth or teeth.

However, this type of retainer is not visually appealing, can interfere with speech, and poses a risk of fracture and inferior retention of the lower incisors compared to vacuum-formed retainers.

The Hawley retainer was invented and named after Dr. Charles A. Hawley, an American orthodontist.

Vacuum-formed retainer

The vacuum-formed retainer is another common type of retainer which is made of polypropylene or polyvinylchloride (PVC) material. PVC is more economical and faster to make.

The vacuum-formed retainer is a clear or transparent retainer that is fitted to the whole teeth curve or from canine to canine only. It is produced from a mold and looked like an Invisalign tray. It also only recommended being worn at night.

Compared to Hawley, this retainer is cheaper, less visible, and easier to wear. But it is not recommended for patients suffering from bruxism as vacuum-formed retainer are prone to breakage and deterioration.

Fixed retainer

Fixed retainers include reinforced fibers, fixed canine and canine retainer, and multi-strand retainers. Among the three, multi-strand stainless steel wire type is the most preferred as it is bonded to every tooth of the labial segment. It uses composite resin or acid-etch composite bonding.

On the one hand, fixed canine and the canine retainer is attached to the canine teeth which often cause the relapse of the incisors. Reinforced fiber retainer tends to fracture.

How long should I wear my retainer?

The time you spend wearing your retainer is dependent on your case and your dentist's recommendation. You may be required to keep your retainer 24 hours each day except when cleaning for three to six months. It may also be during nighttime only for about a year.

Talk to your orthodontist and discuss with him or her your treatment plan.

How can I take care of my retainer?

It is imperative that orthodontic retainer is kept clean. Bacteria, plaque, and tartar attached themselves to the retainer that it is important to clean the retainer after removing it from the mouth immediately. When debris hardens, the cleaning process will be harder.

Brushing the retainer is good, but it is also recommended to soak it in a retainer cleaner daily to remove the bacteria that might have been missed by brushing.

Also, be wary of the cleaning agent you use. Ensure that the product is not abrasive as it can damage the retainer. If calcium deposits remain stuck to the retainer after brushing or soaking it, you should consult your orthodontist to help you address the issue.

What is Orthodontics?

Many methods of teeth straightening have emerged from the earliest records of orthodontics more than 2,000 years ago to the modern orthodontics credited to Edward Hartley.

People suffering from overbite, underbite, crossbite, open bite, misplaced midline, spacing, and crowding have been presented many options to improve the appearance of their teeth.

Why should I get an orthodontic treatment?

Aside from the aesthetic benefit orthodontic treatments promise, they also prevent the risk of tooth loss due to decay and periodontal diseases. When teeth are crooked and malpositioned, they pose higher risks for bacteria accumulation as they are harder to clean.

Crooked and malpositioned teeth cause more stress on the chewing muscles that can result in TMJ syndrome, headaches, and pains in the neck, shoulder, and the back.

What are the types of orthodontic appliances?

Orthodontic treatments include fixed and removable appliances.

Fixed appliances are non-removable and usually made up of brackets glued to each tooth and linked using wires. Examples of fixed devices are braces, special fixed appliances, and fixed space maintainers.

Removable devices are often plastic plates used to cover the roof of the mouth and clipped onto some teeth. These appliances can only carry out limited tooth movements. Removable devices include aligners, removable space maintainers, jaw repositioning appliances, lip and cheek bumper, palatal expander, removable retainers, and headgear.

These devices move the teeth, retrain the muscles, and put gentle pressure on the jaws to affect their growth.

Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.


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