Over time, it’s common for teeth to shift position from early youth through adulthood naturally. As a result, anyone who has had braces or Invisalign is encouraged to wear retainers to keep their teeth properly aligned.
What Are Retainers and How Do They Work?
Retainers are pre-formed devices that fit in the mouth and rest behind and in front of the teeth to help with realignment. Each retainer is custom fitted to the specific patient and is typically made up of wires and plastic. Retainers are designed to put gentle force on the individual’s teeth to support gradual realignment and are used as a form of maintenance after braces are removed to ensure teeth do not immediately begin shifting after the initial correction.
How Are Retainers Made?
The design of a retainer is completely customized to the wearer. Orthodontists used to take an impression of the patient’s mouth which was then put into a plaster mold to create an original piece. iTero digital scanners are now used by many orthodontists, including Dr. Milnor, to help design extremely accurate retainers and Invisalign treatments. Once the retainer itself is constructed, wires are fitted with acrylic and run in line with the retainer to allow it to grasp the teeth and hold them into place.
There are different types of retainers that a patient can consider wearing.
Different Types of Retainers
Hawley retainers are typically the most common retainers used today. They use metal wires around the base of the retainer that can be adjusted as necessary to keep the teeth adequately aligned.
Essix retainers are becoming increasingly popular as they can be made with transparent materials that are considerably less noticeable. They are made with high-performance shaping plastic that completely covers the teeth and can last up to 24 months.
For semi-permanent solutions, fixed retainers can help to address more severe alignment issues and rest on the inner side of the teeth. Once the retainer is appropriately situated, it is bonded to the teeth and is designed to stay in the mouth, eliminating the possibility of the retainer not being worn enough to be effective.
How to Care for Your Retainer Properly
Since most retainers are in and out of patient’s mouths regularly, it’s essential they are regularly cared for properly. Much like contact lenses, retainers should always be cleaned before they are used again. Using a toothbrush with mild dish soap and warm water is sufficient enough to clean the retainer. Certain types of toothpaste may be too abrasive and damage it. When not being used, retainers can be kept in their storage cases to stay protected and prevent them from getting dirty.
Once your retainer is made for you, it is important to wear it and care for it according to your orthodontist’s instructions. Otherwise, you may lose that perfect smile you worked so hard to achieve.