An orthodontic retainer is the final phase of orthodontic treatment. Braces and other orthodontic appliances are the active phase of treatment when the teeth are moved into alignment. During the retention phase of treatment, a retainer maintains the correct alignment of teeth. Though teeth appear straight once the braces are off, teeth can relapse back to their original misalignment. Using the braces retainer during the retention phase of treatment allows time for the soft and hard tissues around the teeth to remodel.
Orthodontic Retainer Types
There are basically three types of retainers:
- removable acrylic retainer – These retainers, called Hawley retainers, are made from durable acrylic molded to your mouth with a wire inserted to hold teeth in place. They are removable for easy cleaning of teeth and retainer. And the acrylic comes in a variety of colors, however the acrylic part is not visible, only the wire is visible, when inserted into the mouth.
- removable plastic invisible retainer – these retainers look very much like the Invisalign clear aligners molded to your teeth and are virtually invisible. They are also removable which makes cleaning your teeth an the retainer easy. However, they are made of less durable plastic and not recommended for people who grind their teeth.
- fixed bonded retainer – usually used only the lower teeth in patients at high risk for their teeth moving back out of alignment. This type of retainer is not removable (except by an orthodontist).
Dr. Bright will determine which retainer type you will most benefit from. The type recommended will depend on the complexity of your case and the results of your orthodontic treatments.
Minor orthodontic problems can actually be corrected using only retainers. The retainers may placed on the upper and/or lower teeth to correct small alignment or teeth spacing issues.
An orthodontic retainers is the last step of your orthodontic experience and the beginning of a healthy smile and beautiful teeth for life. The excitement you will experience when your braces come off makes it very tempting not to wear your retainer. However, it is crucial to wear the retainer for the time determined. This last step, if followed correctly, will help avoid wearing braces again.