Frequently Asked Questions About Tooth Retainers
You know how after you finish a good book and hope for a sequel?
Dental retainers are that sequel.
Following all that time you spent straightening and perfecting your smile, retainers are here to continue the story!
What are Tooth Retainers?
Tooth retainers are tailor-made tools, often fashioned from clear plastic or metallic wires, created to maintain the position of your teeth, ensuring you can showcase that radiant smile for many years to come!
What are the 3 Types of Removable Tooth Retainers?
With a Hawley retainer, your teeth are kept in place by a wire across the front of your teeth, while an acrylic part rests against the roof of your mouth or along the inner surface of your lower teeth.
If your teeth start playing musical chairs, your orthodontist can tweak the Hawley retainer to straighten them.
Think of Essix retainers as the undercover agents of the retainer world. They are made of clear plastic, so they’re almost invisible when you wear them. They are a thin, see-through mouthguard that fits snugly over your teeth. Keep your teeth in check with a sleek, discreet guard without flashy metal or bulky materials.
Although Essix retainers are super stealthy and great for patients who don’t want to wear metal-wire retainers, they do have a lifespan, and you might have to replace them every couple of years.
The Vivera retainer is the VIP of the clear retainer world. It comes into play after Invisalign has performed its job of straightening out your pearly whites.
For starters, Vivera retainers are made from the same high-tech material that makes Invisalign so effective. They fit perfectly, are comfortable, and hold up to 30% more force than most clear retainers.
In addition, Vivera retainers are clear, making them ideal for patients who care about their dental aesthetics.
Furthermore, Vivera retainers come with multiple sets, so you have backups if one goes missing or your dog decides it’s a chew toy.
Pros of Removable Tooth Retainers
- Easier Cleaning: In contrast to fixed retainers, removable retainers can be easily removed, brushed, and rinsed. Plus, you can brush and floss your teeth without any metal getting in the way.
- Food Freedom: Don’t give up popcorn or gooey caramel! Take your retainer out when eating; you can munch on whatever you like!
- Undercover Agent: Clear removable retainers are discreet. Most people won’t even notice you are wearing one!
- Break Time: You can take your retainer off for a short break or a big event, but make sure to put it back in afterward, or your teeth will start shifting.
- Dental Check-Ups are a Breeze: It is much easier for your dentist to examine and clean your teeth with your retainer removed.
Cons of Removable Tooth Retainers
- Easy to Lose: You can easily lose removable retainers if you leave them on a lunch tray or wrap them in a napkin.
- Breakage Risk: Your retainer can crack or snap if you sit on it, step on it, or play with it too much. Then, it’s off to the orthodontist for a new one.
- Forgetting to Wear Them: You may forget to pop your retainer back after eating or brushing your teeth without being glued to your teeth.
- Potential for Less Control: A fixed retainer may be necessary for particularly stubborn teeth.
- Maintenance: You need to clean removable retainers daily if you want them to stay clean. Otherwise, plaque and other nasty stuff will build up.
- Cost: Over time, replacing lost or broken retainers can get expensive.
What are the 2 Types of Permanent Tooth Retainers?
Bonded Lingual Retainers
Lingual retainers are thin wires attached to the back of your teeth, usually your lower front teeth. They are the James Bond of retainers since they lie hidden behind your teeth.
A palatal retainer consists of a mesh or acrylic plate attached to the upper palate, which resembles a roof for your mouth.
Pros of Permanent Tooth Retainers
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Most permanent retainers are fixed behind the teeth, especially the lingual ones.
- Forgetfulness-Proof: Unlike removable retainers, permanent retainers stay in place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Consistent Pressure: The ultimate overachievers in retainers are permanent retainers, which provide continuous force to hold your teeth in position.
- Low maintenance: There’s no need to remove your permanent retainer before meals or worry about storing it. Once they’re in, they’re in.
- Long-Lasting: As with that favorite pair of jeans that fit just right, permanent retainers last for years, sometimes even decades.
- No Nightly Rituals: You only need to brush and floss your permanent retainers regularly.
Cons of Permanent Tooth Retainers
- Tricky Cleaning: It can be difficult to floss between those tight spots when your teeth have a wire glued to them. You might need a special flosser or a water flosser to get in between them.
- Potential for Breakage: The retainer could break if you chew on something hard.
- Tongue Troubles: A retainer can be like a new toy for your tongue that requires some getting used to, especially in the beginning.
- Speech Slip-Ups: With some practice, you’ll soon get the hang of your speech. Initially, you might sound like you’re speaking with a slight lisp.
- Hidden Plaque Party: You risk cavities and gum disease if you don’t thoroughly clean your retainer.
Not for Everyone: Sometimes, there might be better solutions than permanent retainers based on alignment and bite.
How Long Do Dental Retainers Last?
The traditional Hawley retainers can last a good few years, sometimes even a decade! On the other hand, clear plastic retainers are less durable. If you grind your teeth at night or bite them down, they’re more likely to wear and tear.
Keeping your retainer clean, storing it safely in its case when not in use, and avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures all contribute to the longevity of your retainer.
How Many Hours a Night Should I Wear My Retainer?
You should wear your first retainer every day for a few months. That’s because if you do not wear it, your teeth will attempt to shift back to their previous positions.
After a few weeks, your orthodontist will give you the green light to switch to nighttime retainers — around 8 hours a night should do the trick. Depending on the patient, strict adherence to the 8-hour rule might be required for a long time, while others might be able to be more flexible after a few years.
What are the 3 Types of Interceptive Orthodontics?
Your teeth will return to their original positions after a brief trip down Memory Lane, just like your hair always returns to its natural state after straightening or curling.
There’s also the risk of bite problems. If your teeth shift, they might not meet properly when you chew or speak. This can cause various orthodontic problems, from chewing problems to jaw pain.
Suppose your teeth have moved just a bit, and you panic and pop your retainer back in. It might only fit if you have worn your retainer briefly. Worst case scenario? Braces or another form of treatment may be necessary. You can’t expect to lift the same weight if you skip gym sessions for months and then expect to do so without some effort.
Last, not wearing your retainer will cost you time and money. Having to visit the orthodontist for adjustments or a new game plan means more appointments, adjustments, and money.
Why Does My Retainer Hurt?
- Not Wearing It Consistently: Your teeth might have slightly shifted if you have been wearing your retainer less than you should.
- It’s Brand New: Getting used to your retainer will take some time if you’ve just had braces removed.
- It’s Too Tight: A retainer can sometimes be adjusted to be slightly tighter when your teeth have shifted. It’s like tightening your belt after eating a lot — it’s doing its job but causing slight discomfort simultaneously.
- Broken or Bent: If you accidentally sat on your retainer or your dog chewed it, there’s a chance your retainer might not be in good shape, causing discomfort.
- Gum Issues: Inflamed gums or other dental issues can make wearing a retainer a painful experience.
- Growing Pains: Due to continuous tissue growth, a previously comfortable retainer may no longer feel comfortable for children and teens.
What Should I Do if My Retainer is Not Fitting Anymore?
Your teeth may have shifted just a bit, so try wearing your retainer for shorter periods to ease back into it if you find it too tight.
At this point, the best thing to do is call your orthodontist if your retainer does not fit correctly or causes pain. Your teeth might be back in their old positions. They’ll let you know if you need a new retainer, a few adjustments, or if there’s another way to get your teeth back on track.
Once you’ve taken a little “retainer hiatus,” getting back on track is crucial. The longer you wait, the more your teeth might move and the harder it is to straighten them.
Can a Tight Retainer Damage My Teeth?
A little tightness in your retainer is usual, but a lot isn’t. You should see an orthodontist if you feel more than mild discomfort — like pain or excessive pressure. It can damage your teeth or roots if you wear an excessively tight retainer, resulting in serious dental problems later.
Can I Wear a Retainer With a Fake Tooth?
Wearing a retainer with a fake tooth is entirely possible, but there is one caveat.
It shouldn’t cause any issues to wear a retainer with a dental implant since it is securely anchored in your jaw.
The situation gets trickier when discussing removable partial dentures or dental bridges. Neighboring teeth support false teeth, so a retainer could dislodge them if not appropriately designed.
Your orthodontist or dentist can advise if you need a custom retainer to accommodate your fake tooth or another option.
How Do I Clean My Retainer?
- Lukewarm Water Rinse: If you remove your retainer, give it a good rinse under lukewarm water. Avoid using hot water – it can warp your retainer!
- Use a Soft Toothbrush: Scrub your retainer gently with a toothbrush (one specifically designed for retainers). Do not use toothpaste, as it may cause damage.
- Dish Soap: Rinse your retainer thoroughly after using a gentle cleaner to remove any lingering bacteria.
- Soaking Solutions: Put one retainer cleaning tablet in a glass of water, let it soak, and voila! Clean retainers.
- Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Using bleach or alcohol-based mouthwash for cleaning retainers should be avoided. They can damage your retainer and can be harmful to your health.
- Vinegar & Water Solution: You should soak your retainer in a half-vinegar, half-water solution for about 20 minutes. Then, gently brush and rinse it.
- Keep It Dry: When not wearing your retainer, let it air dry. However, be sure that it’s clean. Storing a wet retainer will create a breeding ground for bacteria.
What is the Cost of a Tooth Retainer?
Several factors determine the cost of your retainer.
On average, you can expect to pay between $100 and $800 (or even more) for one retainer, depending on your location.
Secondly, there is a price difference depending on the type of retainer. For instance, Hawley retainers are relatively affordable, but if you opt for an Essix or Vivera clear, invisible retainer, you’ll have to spend more.
Even though the initial cost might seem high, it’s a worthwhile investment. Think of it as your ticket to maintaining your perfectly aligned smile.
Can I Eat With My Retainer On?
Several dental problems can occur if you eat with your retainer in.
You can get food stuck between your retainer and your teeth. If that happens, bacteria can run amok, causing cavities or other dental problems.
Secondly, chewing with your retainer on can damage it, especially if you are eating hard or crunchy foods. Even though your retainer might look tough, it wasn’t built to handle the forces of chewing on caramel apples or popcorn.
You should also keep in mind that staining is a possibility. Do you love spaghetti bolognese or that beet salad? Eating such foods will stain your retainer, making it less than ideal for wearing.