When it comes to orthodontic treatment, braces are just the first step. Once you’ve completed the treatment plan outlined by your orthodontist, it’s time to get your retainer and maintain your new smile. Retainers are custom made for each patient, and with regular care, are made to last a lifetime – just like your smile! Our experts at Family Orthodontics in Lexington, Camden, and Columbia are here to help you navigate your smile after braces.
What is the Purpose of a Retainer?
The main purpose of a retainer is to preserve your smile after undergoing orthodontic treatment. They hold your teeth in their new positions in order for your teeth to avoid reverting back to their original state before treatment. Your retainer will be made specifically for your mouth to perfectly match the new alignment of your teeth.
Sometimes, retainers may be used as the sole orthodontic treatment. Not every patient needs braces or clear aligners, so your orthodontist may recommend a retainer to move a single tooth or close a space between teeth.
Other reasons a child may require a retainer is to eliminate a tongue thrust. A tongue thrust is when a child’s tongue slides through their front teeth when they speak. Also, a retainer can help keep a child from grinding their teeth at night.
Types of Retainers
There are a few different types of retainers to help you maintain or smile. Your orthodontist will recommend the best retainer for your needs.
- Traditional removable retainer: A traditional removable retainer involves a metal wire that surrounds the front teeth and attaches to an acrylic arch that supports the back of the teeth from the roof of the mouth.
- Aligner-style retainer: Aligner-style retainers are similar to clear aligner trays for orthodontic treatment. These retainers are more cosmetically pleasing than the wire retainer. Most of the time, a clear retainer covers the whole arch of your teeth and the roof of your mouth created from a mold of your new smile.
- Fixed retainers: Fixed retainers are a wire retainer bonded behind your teeth. Most of the time, a fixed retainer can stay on your teeth for a lifetime, or may be recommended by your orthodontist until your wisdom teeth are removed.
How to Clean Your Retainer
Cleaning a retainer can be as simple as cleaning your teeth! Simply brush your retainer just like you would your teeth following a meal and before going to bed. Avoid using hot water to keep from damaging or melting the retainer.
For a fixed retainer, pay closer attention to cleaning around the retainer to avoid buildup. Use a floss threader to get through the small spaces between your teeth and the retainer. Your orthodontist will provide instructions and recommend the best tools and resources to care for your retainer. Follow their guidelines as directed to prevent regression of your orthodontic treatment.
Pro and Cons
- Pro: Removable retainers can easily be removed for eating a meal or brushing and flossing your teeth.
- Con: Removable retainer can get lost. Remember to always bring your case with you to properly store them while eating or brushing your teeth.
- Pro: Clear, aligner-style retainers are a great cosmetically pleasing alternative to traditional removable retainers.
- Pro: If you’re worried about losing your retainer, a fixed retainer is a great option!
- Con: Fixed retainers do require extra care for cleaning – Patients with a fixed retainer often need floss threaders to be able to reach the hard to get spaces between their teeth and the fixed retainer.