3 Types of Retainers: Which One Is Right for You?

Whether you’ve used clear aligners or traditional braces to straighten your teeth, wearing one of three types of retainers is an important continuation of your orthodontic treatment. A retainer helps keep teeth in their proper positions after the active phase of orthodontic treatment ends. 

Though it may seem inconvenient to wear an orthodontic device after achieving your goal, failing to do so can allow your teeth to shift back to their original positions. Without a retainer, your teeth can regress so dramatically that the only way to straighten them is to begin again with a new course of orthodontic treatment. 

The orthodontic specialists at Invisible Braces in Houston, Texas, want to ensure that you benefit from the time, effort, and expense you put into achieving your new look. They provide a customized and comfortable fit with the type of retainer most appropriate for you, based on the degree of correction achieved and factors such as your lifestyle and preferences. 

Find out more about the types of retainers available and how they work to help you maintain the cosmetic and functional benefits of straight teeth. 

Types of retainers

The orthodontic specialists at Invisible Braces use three types of retainers. When worn as recommended, each one provides effective protection from your teeth returning to their original misaligned positions. 

Hawley retainers

A Hawley retainer is a traditional plastic and metal retainer. It consists of an adjustable wire that sits across the front surfaces of your teeth.

This type of retainer wire is removable. It is held in place by a customized acrylic arch that fits behind your lower teeth on the bottom arch or against the roof of your mouth on the upper arch. 

The design of a Hawley retainer exposes the chewing surfaces of your teeth. This allows your teeth to touch naturally, which may be more comfortable when speaking.

Clear retainers

Clear removable retainers have a fit that’s similar to clear aligners, though they are made of a slightly more durable plastic material than aligners. These customized clear plastic trays cover all the surfaces of your upper and lower teeth,  

Like clear aligners, this type of retainer is virtually invisible to others. This allows you to wear it discreetly in any professional or social situation, without changing the way you look. 

Fixed retainers

Fixed retainers, also called lingual wires, are permanent devices that can remain in your mouth indefinitely. They can last for years without replacement and must be removed by an orthodontist or dentist. 

A fixed retainer consists of a thin metal wire that is permanently bonded to the tongue-side of your upper or lower teeth to keep them in the desired position. The wire typically doesn’t extend across the entire arch, but is bonded to the front four or five teeth.

Why retainers matter

Even though retainers differ in appearance and style, they all work to keep your teeth in their new straight positions. 

The braces or aligners used to correct your teeth are designed to gently move your teeth into their desired positions over time. When this is achieved, you see your new, perfect smile. However, the soft tissue and bone surrounding your teeth need time to adjust to the new permanent placement of your teeth.

A retainer holds your teeth in place while new bone tissue develops and rebuilds around each tooth. It also allows time for your tooth roots to adjust so they can properly stabilize your teeth in their new positions. 

If you have a removable retainer, you must wear your retainer as directed to achieve results. Your retainer schedule is customized based on the type of correction that was performed. 

It’s common to wear a retainer full-time for up to nine months then cut back to nighttime use sometime between nine and 12 months. Over time, you may be able to maintain straight teeth by wearing your retainer at night several times a week.

Getting the best results

Proper care and maintenance helps preserve the quality of any type of retainer. Damaged retainers may cause discomfort or interfere with the success of your treatment plan.

Daily cleaning is an important part of caring for a Hawley or clear retainer. Keeping your retainers free of food particles and bacteria reduces your risk of tooth decay and helps prevent deterioration of plastic components.

If you have a fixed retainer, you will have to use floss to avoid an accumulation of tartar and plaque behind the wire, which can increase your risk of gum disease.

Replacing lost or damaged retainers typically involves an additional fee, which may serve as motivation to keep them safe in their provided case when you remove them.

Find out more about how retainers work and which one may be right for you. To learn more, schedule an appointment online or over the phone with Invisible Braces today.

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