You’ve reached a milestone: as of today, you no longer need braces! For months, maybe years, your braces have gradually coaxed your teeth into new positions that give you a healthier mouth and a lovely smile. Now you and your orthodontist want to ensure that your teeth will stay in their new places.
So you will wear a retainer to keep your teeth where they’re supposed to be. There are several dental retainer types. Your orthodontist will help you select which will work best for you and your specific condition. There are two general types—permanent and removable retainers—and several removable retainers.
At Loudoun Orthodontics, we use Hawley, Essix, and Vivera® (Invisalign®) removable retainers. Here we will discuss these and give you a brief review of retainers.
About Dental Retainers
Retainers are critical to maintaining your new smile after orthodontic treatment. On the day you say goodbye to your braces, your teeth are not quite set in their new locations. Your mouth has not yet developed the bone and tissue to support them. And strangely, your teeth tend to try to slip back to their original positions. The retainer stops them before they can begin their journey and ruin all that hard work. It gives your body time to grow new tissues and bones.
According to the American Dental Association guidelines, people typically wear retainers all day and night for up to three months, then only at night. Of course, this may vary depending on what your orthodontist decides you need.
Permanent and Removable Retainers
Permanent retainers are wire appliances that stay attached to your teeth until your orthodontist removes them. Removable retainers are not attached, and you can remove them during cleaning or eating. Naturally, removable retainers require more responsibility and maintenance on your part, so they might not be the best choice for young children. They can be easily lost or damaged if not cared for properly. No parent wants to hear that dreaded news that their child’s removable retainer broke!
Removable Dental Retainer Types
The metal and acrylic Hawley retainer has been in use for decades. The acrylic piece fits the roof of your mouth, and a metal wire fits across your front teeth. Your orthodontist can adjust the wire to give it the best fit for your teeth.
The Hawley retainer can be repaired if damaged and can last for several years. Unlike clear retainers, however, it is visible, and the wires may irritate your mouth. It may also distort your speech a bit at first.
Clear Plastic Retainers
The newer technology of clear plastic retainers came about around the same time as clear plastic braces. These custom-fit appliances have a number of advantages over traditional plastic and metal retainers.
First, and most importantly to some, they are almost invisible. There is no metal wire running across your teeth for everyone to see. Second, they are more comfortable with no metal to irritate sensitive tissues in your mouth. Third, speech problems are less likely.
On the negative side, they cannot be adjusted, and broken retainers cannot be fixed (though they can be replaced for either issue). Also, if they’re not used and maintained according to guidelines, they can become stained or trap cavity-causing liquids against your teeth. But with careful maintenance, they will get the job done quite comfortably.
The Essix Retainer
The Essix retainer is an impression-based clear plastic appliance widely used by orthodontists. Depending on your needs, on the day your braces come off, you will get an upper, lower, or full set of retainers. The orthodontist will give you instructions on how long to wear them and care for them. They can last for several years with proper care.
There are some potential disadvantages to the Essex retainer. According to a study from the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, people using the Essix retainer may experience increased plaque, bleeding, and retainer breakage. However, these issues can be abated with diligent cleaning and consistent care.
The clear, nearly invisible Vivera retainer is an Invisalign brand custom made specifically to follow the Invisalign teeth-straightening aligners. They are twice as durable and 30% stronger than other retainers and less likely to break or discolor compared to other clear retainers. And they are quite comfortable!
Vivera retainers are made with the same state-of-the-art technology used to make the aligners. Impressions of your teeth are not needed. Instead, Vivera retainers are made with Invisalign’s 3D imaging technology. You are sent home with four sets (one upper and one lower per set) of retainers, which will last for years with proper care. If one is lost or damaged, you have backups.
How long will you need to wear your Vivera retainers? Like your aligners, you will need to wear them for 22 hours per day for the first few months. The extra two hours are saved for eating and cleaning. Once the orthodontist gives you the green light, you can reduce wearing time to night only.
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Choose Loudoun Orthodontics for Your Orthodontic Treatment!
Retainers are an essential part of the orthodontic treatment that creates your healthy mouth and a bright, confident smile. There are several types from which to choose, so you can be sure that you will get the best type to meet your needs.
Removable retainers are great options for adults and teens who can take on care and maintenance. You certainly don’t want a retainer to be accidentally left on a school cafeteria tray and tossed in the trash!
Of the removable retainers, we use three at Loudoun Orthodontics—Hawley, Essix, and Vivera. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Based on your specific circumstances, we will help you understand which will work best for you. With careful handling and maintenance, the disadvantages will diminish.
It took a long time to get your teeth into the right positions. Let’s make sure you have the best retainer to keep them there. For more information about retainers, contact us. We are here to help! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health!