Retainers are devices used primarily to hold teeth in place after an orthodontic treatment (such as braces). Retainers are typically made of wire or plastic. You may be asked to wear a retainer at night, in the day time or both. There are four basic retainer types; Hawley, essex, fixed and night guard retainers.
Hawley Type Retainers – The Hawley retainer is the most common retainer type. It includes a metal wire that is attached to a plastic arch that fits in the roof of the mouth. The metal wires are formed to surround the teeth to keep them in place and can be adjusted as necessary for proper fit and minor tooth movement. Most recently, innovation has allowed the metal wires to be replaced with a clear wire for more a more pleasing appearance.
Essix Type Retainers – The Essix retainer is another popular retainer type. This retainer is a transparent plastic device that has been vacuum formed to a mold specific to the patient. Essix retainers do not allow the upper and lower teeth to contact since plastic covers the entire chewing surface. Essix retainers are easier to wear than Hawley retainers and are less expensive. However, it patients suffer from Bruxism ( grinding of teeth), Essix retainers may not be a viable option.
Fixed Retainers – A fixed retainer is are semi-permanent retainers consisting of a wire that is bonded to the inner surface of the patient’s teeth. These retainers cannot be removed by the patient. Fixed retainers are often used after orthodontic treatments have significantly altered teeth placement and when there is a risk of the teeth migrating out of their desired positions. Fixed retainers are typically placed for over a year and are often permanent.
Night Guard Retainers- These retainers are often used to prevent damage from teeth grinding (Bruxism) at night. Instead of damaging teeth when the patient clenches or grinds his or her teeth, the mouth guard absorbs the force and wear caused by Bruxism. The retainer looks similar to the Essix retainer but has material properties designed to withstand the forces of Bruxism.
Do’s and Don’ts for Retainers
• Wear your retainers as instructed by your orthodontist. Failing to do so, may allow your teeth to move back to their previous position.
• Take your retainer out when you eat.
• When you remove your retainer, place them in their case.
• Do not wrap your retainer in a napkin. Someone is sure to throw it out.
• Brush your retainers as instructed to eliminate plaque and odors. Nobody likes bad breath. Your retainer can give you bad breath.
• Keep your retainers away from heat. This includes washing machines, dash boards, and direct sunlight.
• Do not put your retainer in your pocket. It is easy to break in when you sit down.
• Retainers are attractive to pets and children. Be sure to keep them in their case and out of reach of animals and children. Nothing good happens when your retainer ends up with a pet or young child.
• If retainers are broken, lost or melted, call your orthodontist immediately. Living without your retainer will allow your teeth to move.
• Remove retainers when swimming.
• Don’t move your retainer with your tongue. It is easy to break them this way.
• If questions or concerns come up, feel free to call the orthodontist’s office.