Published on July 25, 2019, Updated on March 16, 2020
After your child has completed orthodontic treatment, they will be given a retainer to ensure that their new smile stays straight and beautiful. Retainers function by stabilizing teeth and keeping them in their new positions. However, if retainers are to work properly, they need to be taken care of. Cleaning them regularly, avoiding heat and keeping them in a protective case when not in use are all ways to maintain the structural integrity of a retainer. Find out what all retainers do for our oral health and how to help them last for years to come with these tips!
The main purpose of orthodontic treatment is to fix malocclusion, straighten teeth and remedy jaw and bite issues that affect how the teeth and mouth function. Once your braces or orthodontic device is removed, though, treatment doesn’t end there. For most patients, a retainer will be issued to maintain their newly-straightened teeth and prevent them from returning back to their misaligned state from before. Teeth are notorious for crowding as we age, specifically whenever the width of our smiles get narrower, called physiological drift. Retainers are also helpful in preventing physiological drift from becoming so drastic as we age, thus helping us maintain beautiful smiles for years to come.
Retainers are typically fabricated by an orthodontist or dentist once a mold, or impression, of your post-treatment teeth have been taken. Most retainers are made out of wire or acrylic materials, depending on which you prefer. As mentioned, once orthodontic treatment begins, it never really ends, at least not when it comes to retainers. Most retainers will need to be worn for a few years after treatment, with most orthodontist recommending that patients wear them indefinitely. However long you will be required to wear your retainer will depend upon your specific orthodontic needs and what you orthodontist deems best for future care.
Orthodontic patients have a few options to choose from when picking out what type of retainer to wear. There are two main types of retainers: permanent and removable. Permanent, or fixed, retainers are worn for the rest of your life and give you 24/7 care to ensure that your teeth stay straight. A thin metal wire is cemented to the backside of either your top or bottom teeth (or both) to keep teeth from moving. These retainers range in price from $225-550 for one arch, so they can be a little costly for some patients. Permanent retainers have the best outcomes for patients as they are permanently attached to your teeth, whereas removable retainers can be worn whenever you want. Removable retainers, such as Hawley and ESSIX retainers, are easy to use since they can be removed whenever you want, plus they’re durable, adjustable and clear. Some removable retainers are made with wire going across the front of the upper and lower teeth, with clasps that sit around the back of the teeth to hold the retainer in place. Removable retainers range in price, depending on what type you get, and can be anywhere from $150-300. Although they’re easier to clean than permanent retainers, removable retainers are notorious for getting lost, broken or damaged since they don’t always remain in the mouth. Pets, little kids and heat are common contributors to damaged removable retainers, so it’s important that patients take great care of them to avoid paying hundreds of dollars required to replace them.
Oral hygiene is just as important to maintain while wearing a retainer as it is during braces, especially if you have a permanent retainer. You will need to have regular dental visits with a permanent retainer to clear the wire from plaque and tartar that easily develop around it. You’ll also want to use a floss threader to weave the floss between your teeth and under the wire to remove food particles, and you can even utilize a waterpik, which sprays a steady stream of water to remove debris between teeth. Removable retainers will also need to be cleaned often, and denture cleaning tablets or scrubbing with vinegar and water are effective ways to kill bacteria that builds up in them. Never use toothpaste to scrub your removable retainer as it ruins the acrylic surface and makes it easier for bacteria to stick to it.
To keep your retainers in tip-top shape, never wear them while playing sports or participating in physical activity, where they can be easily broken or damage your teeth and/or gums. If you feel like your retainer needs to be adjusted, don’t try to do it yourself; schedule an appointment with your orthodontist or dentist and let them do it. Lastly, make sure to remove them while eating and put them in a case so that they don’t get lost or thrown away. These are important tips to ensure that your retainer lasts you for a long time.
At Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we specialize in helping children and adults alike receive the beautiful, straight teeth that they deserve. Our team can help you manage wearing your retainer and give you tips on what you need to do to keep your teeth straight for years to come. Call our office today at (720) 887-6003 to schedule your next orthodontic appointment!