It’s official: you’re now braces-free! Congratulations! It has taken your braces months, maybe years, to gently shift your teeth into new positions that give you a healthier mouth and a beautiful smile. With the help of your orthodontist, you now want to ensure that the teeth will remain in their new positions forever. 

In order to keep your teeth in their proper position, you must wear a retainer. Several types of dental retainers are available, and your orthodontist can determine which is appropriate for you based on your specific needs. The permanent and removable retainers are the two main types, and there are several removable retainers available as well.

We use removable retainers such as Hawley, Essix, and Vivera® (Invisalign®) at Patuxent Orthodontics. These retainers will be discussed here, along with a quick review.

Dental Retainers: What You Need to Know

After orthodontic treatment, retainers are critical for maintaining your new smile. It may take time for your teeth to settle into their new positions when you say farewell to your braces. At this time, there is not yet sufficient bone and tissue to support them in their new location. You may also find that your teeth tend to try to return to their original positions. This is where the magic of the retainer comes in; the retainer stops them before they can begin their journey back to their old positions. Thus, your body gets a chance to grow new muscles and bones.

According to the American Dental Association guidelines, most people should wear retainers all day and night for the first three months, then only at night. There is, of course, the possibility that this will vary depending on what your orthodontist deems necessary. 

Permanent and Removable Retainers

A permanent retainer is an appliance that stays attached to your teeth until your orthodontist removes it. Removable retainers are not attached, so you can remove them when cleaning your teeth or eating/drinking. Since removable retainers require a greater degree of responsibility and maintenance from you, they might not be as suitable for young children. If not properly cared for, they can easily be lost or damaged. There’s nothing worse for a parent than hearing that their child’s removable retainer broke or got lost.

Types of Removable Dental Retainers

Hawley Retainers 

Hawley retainers are made of metal and acrylic and have been in use for decades. The acrylic piece is shaped like the roof of your mouth and fits your mouth, while the metal wire is fitted across your front teeth. Your orthodontist can adjust the wire to fit your teeth optimally.

Hawley retainers can be repaired if damaged, and they usually last for several years. However, contrary to clear retainers, the wires are visible and may irritate your mouth. Your speech may also be distorted at first. 

Clear Plastic Retainers

Clear plastic retainers are a newer trend that emerged around the same time as clear plastic braces. Compared to traditional plastic and metal retainers, these custom-fit appliances provide many advantages

Their first and most important characteristic is that they are almost invisible. This is because clear plastic retainers do not involve any metal wires that are visible to other people. Secondly, since there is no metal in them to irritate sensitive tissues in your mouth, they are more comfortable. Lastly, there will be less chance of speech problems. 

However, clear plastic retainers cannot be adjusted, and broken retainers cannot be fixed (though they can be replaced). In addition, if they’re not used and maintained properly, they may become stained or may hold cavity-causing liquids. However, careful maintenance will ensure that they do their job just fine. 

Essix Retainers

Orthodontists commonly use the Essix retainer, an impression-based, clear plastic appliance. After your braces come off, you will either receive an upper set of retainers, a lower set, or a full set, based on your needs. Your orthodontist will determine how long you will wear them and how to care for them. If properly maintained, they can last for several years. 

It is important to note that Essix retainers have some potential disadvantages. For example, using an Essix retainer may increase plaque, bleeding, and retainer breakage, according to a study in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. These issues, however, can be prevented with diligent cleaning and consistent care. 

The Vivera® Retainer

Designed specifically to follow the Invisalign teeth-straightening aligners, the Vivera retainer is nearly invisible and clear. Vivera retainers are twice as durable and 30% stronger compared to other clear retainers. They also are less likely to break or discolor, not to mention that they are pretty comfortable!

Vivera retainers are created using the same state-of-the-art technology as the aligners. Dental impressions are not required. Instead, Vivera retainers are made using 3D imaging technology developed by Invisalign. Each set contains two upper and two lower retainers (four sets in total), which will last you for years if properly cared for. In the event that one is lost or damaged, you will always have a backup. 

Wondering if you must wear Vivera retainers for a long time? To get the most out of them, you’ll have to wear Vivera retainers for 22 hours every day for the first few months. Your two extra hours are reserved for cleaning your retainers and eating your food. The orthodontist will allow you to reduce wearing time to just at night once you receive the green light.

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Choose Patuxent Orthodontics for Your Orthodontic Treatment!

In addition to creating a healthy mouth and a confident, bright smile, orthodontic retainers are a crucial part of any orthodontic treatment. There are several types available, so you can be sure to find the type that meets your needs. 

Removable retainers are an excellent choice for adults and teens who can maintain and take care of them. The last thing you want is a retainer accidentally being thrown out in the trash because it was left on a cafeteria tray! 

Our office uses three types of removable retainers – Hawley, Essix, and Vivera. They each have their pros and cons. We will help you understand which option will work best for you based on your specific circumstances. You can minimize their disadvantages with proper handling and maintenance. 
The journey towards straight teeth and a beautiful smile was long and hard, so make sure you have the best retainer to keep them in place. Get in touch with us if you need more information. We are happy to help! You can also get answers to many of the frequently asked questions regarding maintaining sparkling oral health by visiting our blog!