What type of retainers are there?

By In retainer November 21, 2018

At the end of orthodontic treatment, the braces and the last aligner come off to show off your beautiful smile. To retain this smile, patients will need to wear retainers to keep teeth in place. Otherwise due to the daily repetitive forces of chewing, clenching, grinding or shifting jaw from side to side, teeth will move into crowding relapse. Thus, wearing retainers is important to keeping a beautiful smile.  At Care Orthodontics, we want to educate you about the difference between retainers and explains the pros and cons of each type of retainers. 

Removable retainers:  

Removable retainers are best retainers since they allow you the flexibility to remove while you eat, brush, floss and important social events.  Most patients wear these retainers right after braces removal  to keep your teeth well aligned and in shape.   There are two types of removable retainers: Hawley and Clear retainers. 

a.       Removable Hawley retainers: They are seen with a wire run across the front teeth and a customized process acrylic adapted to the back of the teeth.  This type of retainers is thick and durable. Due to the minimum material thickness to fabricate this type of retainers, the plastic portion of the retainers behind the front teeth can be bulky and cause speech difficulty for some patients.  Patients find that it is hard to articulate certain sounds thus affect their speech initially.  It make take two weeks of adjustment time for your tongue to adapt to they retainers and for your speech to get back to normalcy when first wearing these retainers. 

b.       Removable Clear retainers:  The clear retainers are made out of a special kind of clear, shape-performance plastic to wrap around your teeth.  These retainers have adequate stiffness but are less bulky than the Hawley retainers. They do not take up as much tongue space and do not contribute to speech problem for patients.  Overall, the plastic materials of retainers wrap around all the inside and outside surfaces of teeth every well to retain teeth position.  They are comfortable and are satisfactory in both esthetics and retention requirements.

Fixed retainers are glued-in retainers:  There is a piece of wire that was glued behind your front teeth.  These retainers are great in that they are ‘fixed it and forgot it’.  They are in 24-7 and you don’t have to remember to put on retainers.  However, these retainers require more maintenance care.  You need to use a special tool called ‘floss threader' to floss daily.    It usually takes a few minutes longer to floss with fixed retainers daily.  They are also required to be checked periodically by your general dentist or orthodontist for stain or breakage.  If any of the cement broken off from any of bonded teeth, they need to be fixed or the teeth may move.  When bonded retainers break off you have to worry about the repair cost and the urgency of getting an appointment soon enough to prevent teeth shifting.  Soon or later, the bonding cement will break and you will need to be switched over to removable retainers in the future.

Which retainers should you choose? 

Every office is different.   Some orthodontists may recommend upper removable retainer and lower bonded retainer at braces removal appointment.    Care Orthodontics, Dr. Nancy Phan prefers upper and lower removable retainers for ease of brushing and flossing.   Commonly, patients do not floss enough during orthodontic treatment; therefore, with removable retainers, patient can take out the retainers to brush and floss better to achieve optimal periodontal health.  Ultimately, the most important thing is to wear retainers as directed, regardless of which type.  As long as you wear retainers, you will be able to retain your best smile results.   

Dr. Nancy Phan is a Board-certified orthodontist who has treated many children and adults and served the San Jose community are for over a decade.  Visit us for more education materials and office information.


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Care Orthodontics
88 Tully Rd., Ste. 113 San Jose, CA 95111.
Phone: (408) 971-2885
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