So you’ve finished your treatment for braces or Invisalign and you’re excited to finally show off your smile! Your orthodontist gives you a new retainer with instructions on how often you’ll need to wear it and for a while you do, but then, you wear it less and less or perhaps even lose it. One day you may notice that your teeth no longer feel quite as straight as they did that moment you finished active orthodontic treatment.
Wearing braces or clear aligners are only part of the treatment process on the journey to straight, beautiful smiles. Orthodontic retention therapy is the other half of the equation and is just as important for maintaining the health of your smile. If you’re seeking orthodontic treatment, it’s important to understand the role retention plays in maintaining the outcome you’ve waited for and why retainers are vital to keeping your smile straight.
What is a Retainer?
Retainers are customer made orthodontic appliances that are used after active treatment. They are either metal or plastic and help keep teeth in their new positions long term. Many patients may not know that while teeth have moved into a new position with braces or Invisalign, those teeth can shift back. The risk of relapse is due to many things including pressure from soft tissue and periodontal ligaments, continued growth, or age. Orthodontic retention is the only way to prevent this from happening.
Types of Retainers
There are two types of retainers, either fixed or removable, and your orthodontist will determine which type will be the best option for you. Hawley retainers are a type of removable retainer and are made of metal wires with molded plastic. They are cost-effective, robust, and a very common type of retainer that work well for many patients. Essix retainers are another type of removable retainer made of clear plastic trays and look similar to Invisalign aligners. They fit over teeth and are virtually invisible when worn. Fixed, or bonded retainers, are metal wires that have been cemented to the inside of the teeth. They work well for patients with a high risk of relapse.
No matter which type of retainer your orthodontist thinks will be appropriate for you, it’s important that you follow the instructions on when to wear it and how to clean it. Wearing the retainer will allow your teeth to hold their new form and save you the effort and expense of retreatment. Your retainer will keep your smile as beautiful as the day you ended active orthodontic treatment!