Now that your orthodontic treatment is coming to a close, the next thought that is most commonly on everybody’s mind is about their teeth retainer. A retainer is essential both for prevention of relapse after orthodontic treatment and for increasing patient satisfaction (Kartal Y & Kaya B., 2019).
A retainer after braces is definitely a step up from having the braces themselves but there are many things to know when it comes to your permanent retainer. For instance, there are different types of retainers from bonded retainer to a fixed retainer.Whichever you choose, your orthodontic retainer is an important part of continuing your treatment process and retainers after braces are not just a nicety – they are a requirement.
Orthodontists generally accept that a good retention phase is essential to maintain the treatment effects (Kartal Y & Kaya B., 2019). A good retainer for teeth is the difference between keeping all the ground you have gained and keeping that beautiful smile straight and in place, versus your teeth once again becoming crooked and out of place.
Retainer after braces
But what is the big deal about retainers? What are the two primary types and why do you need to wear them anyway?
Let’s start with the last question first, why should you wear retainers. Retainers are an important part of the follow-up to actually getting your orthodontic appliances removed. Whether it was braces or Invisalign, retainers, as the name indeed suggests, are designed to help retain your teeth in the correct positions.
This is because after you have undergone orthodontic treatment, your teeth are likely to be loose and not quite as fixed in their jaw positions as they were previously. Because of this, it is possible that if you do not wear retainers, your teeth can actually begin to shuffle back and regress back into their original positions. Wearing a retainer helps to shield against this and protect all of your orthodontic gains.
There are two primary different types of retainers and both of them have some pros and cons. So what are the two different types of retainers and which one will be best for you?
Types of retainers
Determining which one would be best for you is ultimately a personal decision you will make with your orthodontist. Both types of retainers do have pros and cons and so deciding what you deem as most important versus unimportant is ultimately a personal decision.
Removable appliances have been used for many years. Fixed retainers came later, because of advantages like better aesthetics, no need for patient cooperation, effectiveness, and suitability for lifelong retention (Kartal Y & Kaya B., 2019).
Let’s look at the two different types and with a little bit of information and some advice from your orthodontic office, you will be able to determine which is ultimately best for you. So let’s start off with the most popular type – removable retainers
Retainers after braces
There are a few different styles, variations, and makers of removable retainers but ultimately they all share one thing in common, they are removable. Removable retainers are by far the most popular pick for many different individuals partly because after having worn orthodontics like braces for so long, people are not likely to want to get something attached permanently to the teeth again. The most common is the Hawley retainer, the classic plastic and metal kind you probably think of when you think about a retainer.
Removable retainers can feel like freedom for individuals who have just had months or maybe years of orthodontic treatment. The ability to actually feel your teeth without something on them can be a huge psychological boost for many individuals. In addition to that, removable retainers are often more versatile since again you can take them on and off for whenever you need to brush or floss which can help keep your teeth clean and allow you to get proper brushing and flossing done which may have been lacking during your wearing of orthodontics.
One of the other major benefits of removable orthodontic retainers is that because they are removable, they’re also very easy to clean. Retainers do need to be cleaned regularly and should be cleaned at every meal, either before or after, to help make sure that they continue to function properly and do not accumulate any plaque or food particles. Utilizing a soft bristle toothbrush in warm water is usually sufficient for cleaning removable retainers.
Removable retainers do though come with a couple of minor drawbacks. The single biggest one is that they are removable.
Retainer for teeth
It may seem odd that its biggest selling point is also its biggest weakness but the fact is anything that can be removed can also be lost or damaged. Some individuals do not take proper care of their retainers, simply stuffing them in a pocket or in a purse, and this can cause the retainers to become bent, warped, broken, or lost. A lost retainer will not be able to help you retain your teeth in place and a broken one will be ineffective at it. This is why it’s important to make sure that you actually take care of your removal retainers, placing them in a case every time as this will be far more affordable than replacing them due to mishandling.
Permanent retainers operate very similarly to how braces do; they are simply permanently attached to your teeth and because of that have none of the weaknesses that the removable retainers do. Because they are attached, they are likely to work more effectively than ones that can be removed since anything that can be removed can be lost or forgotten.
Permanently attached retainers often allow you to actually finish your orthodontic treatment sooner than the removable variety. In addition to that, it is far harder to lose or break something that is actually attached to you. This can be really great for individuals who simply do not want to worry about remembering to wear their retainer but still recognize the importance of it.
For individuals who simply don’t want to think about it, a permanent retainer can be a big win compared to a removable one. The drawback of course is the inverse of the other and that is it is permanently attached. You do have to wear it all the time and cleaning it is a little bit trickier since you cannot take it out of your mouth. However, after having worn braces or other orthodontics, you are likely a pro at cleaning around wires and maintaining your dietary restrictions.
Making sure to take good care of your retainers is a great way to ensure that your orthodontic treatment goes as planned and you can protect that beautiful smile that you have earned.
Retainers fall into two broad categories which are further subdivided into more groups. With so many groups and categories, it might be difficult to figure out which retainer would work best for your purposes. There are advantages and disadvantages to getting each of the types of retainers. For example, removable retainers are great for hygiene reasons, while fixed retainers are great because they don’t require patient cooperation.
On the other hand, removable retainers can be easily lost and their effectiveness is dependent on the patient’s total compliance, whereas fixed retainers are permanent retainers and they bypass these disadvantages but might make oral hygiene more difficult.
If you are the end of your active orthodontic treatment phase with braces, you are likely looking at retainers for the next phase and deciding whether to go with fixed retainers or removable retainers. There is no one size fits all when it comes to retainers but your orthodontist can guide you as to which might be more suitable for your needs.
In addition to the factors above, fixed retainers will cost more than removable retainers, but are far less likely to break or crack than removable retainers and so you are not likely to need to replace them because you break them.So, depending on how careful you are with your removable retainer, you may end up spending more money replacing retainers than if you had started with a permanent retainer.
Kartal, Y., & Kaya, B. (2019). Fixed Orthodontic retainers: A Review. Turkish journal of orthodontics, 32(2), 110–114. https://doi.org/10.5152/TurkJOrthod.2019.18080