For children and adults who have dealt with straightening their teeth and bites with braces, the desire to neglect more orthodontics may be overwhelming. But retainers are the next step after braces, and they’re an essential part of keeping teeth straight in the long term.
Once braces have been taken off, patients’ teeth are straighter, and their bite may have undergone significant adjustment over the course of treatment. Braces correct tooth and bite issues by placing a constant pressure on the teeth for months at a time, slowly shifting the tooth position with this pressure. Some patients may need to wear braces for up to two years.
To prevent these gains in dental health from reverting to their prior crookedness, orthodontic professionals may have their patients wear retainers. It’s generally a more discrete device than braces; it’s composed of metal and plastic, and is molded to fit your teeth. Every retainer is unique to its owner, and can even be individualized. Some orthodontics will offer a range of colors, allowing patients to make the device more appealing to themselves.
Some soreness or aching when patients start using a retainer is natural, just as initial soreness and pressure are normal when starting treatment with braces.
There are an assortment of retainer types, and orthodontists will select the best option for patients.
The Hawley retainer is the one patients are most commonly familiar with, in part due to prevalence in children and teen media. The metal wire of the Hawley retainer, which is looped against a small piece of plastic or acrylic. It’s removable, and can slide on and off with relative ease.
Essix retainers are a brand name vacuum formed retainer. Essix retainers are easily broken, due the slender profile and thin materials used. The advantage to Essix retainers is that their diminutive dimensions make them a particularly discrete choice of retainer. Like the Hawley, they’re removable by the patient.
Bonded, or fixed retainers, cannot be taken off without orthodontic assistance. In patients with a high risk of braces gains being reversed over time, or those who underwent intense bite correction, this type of retainer is a common pick.
Retainers preserve the gains of braces. How long a patient has to wear it depends on their teeth, and the judgment of their orthodontist. Daily wear for months, evening wear while sleeping, every other day, or even years of wear can be prescribed.
Some patients may require only a retainer and not braces, closing a gap between teeth or moving a misaligned tooth into alignment with the rest of their teeth. These retainer uses may take several years to achieve the desired effect, and are then continued to be worn to keep gaps closed and teeth in alignment.