The big moment is finally here – after a long time (16 to 18 months, on average), you are ready to let go of your braces and enjoy your perfect smile, and that is fantastic! However, it is essential to remember that the process of teeth straightening doesn’t end here. Teeth tend to play tricks on us and long for their initial position, which is why, if unmanaged, they can undo your hard work in no time.
To prevent such a turn of events, the field of dentistry came up with a solution in the form of retainers, a device whose function is to conserve the results delivered by braces or Invisalign and keep your teeth straight. However, the world of tooth retainers is not as simple as it sounds – “How do I choose the proper retainer?” “How do I adequately care for my retainer?” “When should I change it?” Here at Loudoun Orthodontics, our mission is to keep our patients thoroughly informed and help them achieve superior dental health. Without further ado, let’s dive into the world of tooth retainers!
Did You Know That There Are Types of Retainers?
Right from the start, we learn how retainers fall into different categories to best suit the patient’s needs:
#1: Regular Retainers
Here at Loudoun Orthodontics, we rely upon the following three retainers as the most common examples of this category:
- Hawley retainer: the original retention device, Hawley retainers combine hard plastic or acrylic plate with a thin metal wire to create a comfortable retainer. The wire is settled against the front of the patient’s top teeth and can be adjusted if your teeth experience a slight movement after the braces come off.
- Essix retainers: some of the orthodontists’ favorites, Essix retainers are a clear and removable replacement option for braces. The orthodontist takes impressions of the patient’s mouth and prepares the retainer for the day when braces are removed. As a rule of thumb, after braces are removed, patients wear Essix retainers all day and at nighttime. After 6 months – a year, patients can usually transition to night time wear only. With proper care, they can last for several years.
- Vivera retainers: next in line, Vivera retainers use the Invisalign technology to deliver superior results to common retainers – in general, they are 30% stronger and two times more durable! This makes Vivera retainers less predisposed to breaking, cracking, and discoloring than other types of clear retainers. Furthermore, they are more comfortable to wear as well!
With the help of 3D imaging, we can create a custom, perfect fit for your teeth. After you say goodbye to your braces, we can provide you with four sets of Vivera retainers that, with proper care, will last you for many years to come.
#2: Sports Retainers
You’ve probably heard of different names, such as “sports guards,” “mouth protectors,” or “mouth guards.” However, these are all names for the same device, which protects the teeth (in general, the upper teeth) against external damage. Common in more physical sports (e.g., hockey, football, basketball, etc.), these resilient, tear-resistant devices keep athletes away from broken teeth and other injuries. They come in stock shapes (less expensive) and custom-made shapes (individually designed in a professional laboratory).
#3: Permanent Retainers
If removable retainers are not exactly your cup of tea, you can always opt for permanent or fixed retainers. They consist of a solid yet smooth wire attached to your teeth and prevents them from becoming crooked. However, permanent retainers require a specific surface area to attach correctly to the teeth to be effective.
As a rule of thumb, permanent retainers are attached to the lower teeth, while removable retainers focus on the upper teeth. Depending on your orthodontist’s recommendations, you can use both retainer types simultaneously.
How Do You Know Which Retainers You’ll Need?
Choosing the right retainer for your needs is not a walk in the park, and we recommend that you bring this matter to your orthodontist, with whom you can better discuss your options. To summarize, all retainers can be useful in keeping your smile perfect; what turns the decision towards permanent or removable retainers pertains more to the patient. Let’s analyze the following factors:
- Convenience and maintenance: if convenience is what you’re looking for, permanent retainers are your best choice since you won’t have to worry about anything besides general maintenance and oral hygiene. However, removable retainers require extra maintenance, as they have to be cleaned regularly.
- Appearance: if the thought of showing your retainer in public is a deterrent, then clear or permanent retainers will be a superior choice to the Hawley retainer.
- Durability: for some patients, aesthetic aspects come second to durability. In that case, both permanent and Hawley retainers are the go-to choice.
Caring for Your Retainers Between Uses
While permanent retainers are not so picky in maintenance, removable retainers are, and we must provide the same care for our retainers as we do for our teeth. Otherwise, bacteria can lead to the formation of plaque and other inconveniences.
From the start, keeping your retainers moist and clean is a must. Ensure that you add baking soda to the water – it will keep your retainers clean naturally while removing unwanted bacteria. Furthermore, akin to your teeth, gentle brushing will safely remove tartar buildup. Try to work this into a routine at least a couple of times every week.
Don’t Lose The Retainer Case
The retainer case is not just an additional item for your retainers but also their actual “home,” where they can be safe from bacteria and other unwanted germs. If, however, you happen to lose your retainer case, remember that a new retainer case is the only substitute for the lost one. Please do not resort to random cases, as they will not provide the same level of care and protection to your retainers. Contact your orthodontist immediately, and they will be more than happy to provide you with a new one.
Washing Your Retainer Case Regularly
To complete your general maintenance routine, make sure that you regularly clean your retainer case as well. You can quickly achieve this with a 10% bleach solution. Keep both the retainer and the retainer case in the bleach solution for approx. ten minutes to reduce the number of germs effectively. However, if you believe that the retainer case has become too dirty, consult yourself with your orthodontist and ask for a new one.
When You Should Replace the Retainer
Akin to every human-made object, retainers are subject to gradual decay, and they ask for a renewal. As we’ve noted earlier, some retainers are more durable than others. For example, Essix retainers, made of plastic, can last anywhere from six months to a few years, while, on the other hand, Hawley retainers can provide reliable results for up to ten years. In both cases, proper maintenance can prolong the lifespan of tooth retainers.
Though they require constant maintenance, tooth retainers are your best ally in keeping the results from braces intact. Now that you have a broad view of this subject, you are ready to pick your tooth retainer and show your perfect smile to the world. Do you wish to learn more about retainers? Make sure that you schedule a complimentary consultation with us, or check out our blog!