Care Following Orthodontics-Retainers
When braces are finally removed, the “retention” phase begins for most individuals. The objective of this phase is to ensure the teeth do not regress back to their previous position or gradually crowd with age (which normally happens for most people). A retainer will be used to maintain the improved position of the teeth. A retainer is a fixed or removable dental appliance which has been custom-made by the orthodontist to fit the teeth. Retainers are generally made from acrylic and thin wires to optimize the comfort of the patient.
Retainers are worn full time for varying amounts of time, depending on the type of orthodontic treatment and the age of the patient and then eventually just at night. Perseverance and commitment are required to make this final stage of treatment successful. If the retainer is not worn as directed by the orthodontist, the treatment result will not be as good as expected.
What types of retainer are available?
There are a variety of retainers available; each one geared towards treating a different kind of problem. The orthodontist will make a retainer recommendation depending on the nature of the original diagnosis and the orthodontic treatment plan.
The following are some of the most common types of retainers:
- Hawley retainer – The Hawley retainer consists of a metal wire on an acrylic arch. The metal wire may be periodically adjusted by the orthodontist to ensure the teeth stay in the desired position. The acrylic arch is designed to fit comfortably on the inside or palate of the mouth.
- Essix – The Essix retainer is the most commonly used clear vacuum formed retainer (VFR). A mould is initially made of the teeth in their new alignment, and then clear PVC trays are created to fit over the arch. The disadvantage of VFR’s is that they break and scratch more easily than other types of retainers.
- Fixed retainers – A fixed retainer is usually used for the lower teeth. It usually consists of a single wire and is affixed to the tongue side of a few teeth. The inclination of the lower front teeth to move rapidly means they are also more likely to regress back to their previous position if a fixed retainer is not placed.
What do I need to consider when using a retainer?
There are a few basic things to consider for proper use and maintenance of your retainer.
Don’t lose the appliance – Removable retainers are very easy to lose. It is advisable to place your retainer in the case it came in when you are not wearing it. Leaving a retainer folded in a napkin at a restaurant or in a cafeteria can be very costly if lost because a replacement must be created. A brightly coloured case serves as a great reminder. IF you do not have a case with you, it is safer to leave your retainer in to eat.
Clean the retainer properly – Removable retainers can become breeding grounds for bacteria and calculus. It is essential to clean the inside and outside thoroughly as often as possible. Hawley retainers can be cleaned with a toothbrush or a heavy duty brush that we will give you. Because harsh bristles can damage the surface of a VFR, denture cleaner or a specialized retainer cleaner is recommended for this type of device.
Wear the retainer as directed – This phase of treatment is critical. The hard work has been done, the braces are off and now it is tempting not to wear the retainer as often as the orthodontist recommends. Retainers are needed to give the muscles, tissues and bones time to stabilize the teeth in their new alignment. Failure to wear the retainer as directed can have regrettable consequences, such as teeth moving to undesirable positions, added expense and lost time.
If you have any questions or concerns about retainers, please contact our office.