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Types of Orthodontic Retainers After Braces

Article by Dr. Leaver & Dr. Gardner

Orthodontic retainers are custom-made devices, usually made of wires or clear plastic, that hold teeth in position after surgery or any method of realigning teeth. They are used mostly before or after dental braces to keep the teeth in the position that was created. Retainers also assist in the adjustment of the surrounding gums to changes in the bone. Most patients are required to wear their retainer(s) every night at first, and many are instructed to wear them during the day as well; at least initially. Leaver & Gardner Orthodontics outline the three types of retainers that orthodontists and dentists typically prescribe.

The Hawley Retainer

The most popular one is the Hawley retainer. It includes a metal wire that typically surrounds the six anterior teeth and keeps them in place. The Hawley retainer is named after its inventor, Dr. Charles A. Hawley. The labial wire, or Hawley bow, incorporates two omega loops for adjustment. It is anchored in an acrylic arch that sits in the palate (roof of the mouth). The advantage with this retainer is that the metal wires can be adjusted to finish treatment and continue minor movements of the anterior teeth as needed.

The Essix & Zendura Retainers

The Essix retainer is another common type of retainer. It is also called a VFR retainer and is formed with a vacuum. The material used is typically .020” or .030” thick. The Essix and Zendura are the brand names commonly associated with this retainer. This is a clear or transparent retainer and fits over the entire arch of the teeth or from canine to canine teeth and is produced from a mold. These retainers look like Invisalign trays and are virtually invisible and clear when worn. These are easy to clean and don’t interfere with normal brushing and flossing.

Permanent, Fixed or Bonded Retainers

Bonded, permanent or fixed retainers are an entirely different category of retainers. These retainers typically consist of wires that are bonded to the tongue-side of the incisors. These retainers cannot be removed. They are used where active orthodontic treatments produced great changes of the bite and there is a high risk for reversal of those changes. Fixed retainers can be kept in place for life and are good for those who may be forgetful in wearing their retainers. The downside is that these retainers can lead to tartar build-up or gingivitis because of the difficulty in flossing while wearing them. These patients may need to use floss threaders to get through small spaces between the retainer and the teeth.

What to Expect with a New Retainer After Braces

Most removable retainers come with a case for protection. During the first few days, many people will experience extra saliva in their mouth. This is normal because of the new object that has been put inside the mouth and the normal stimulation of the salivary glands. Speaking can be difficult at first after getting a retainer, but this difficulty will go away over time as one gets used to wearing it. Retainers are the only insurance policy orthodontic patients have to keep their smile straight and bite feeling perfect. After spending time and money to straighten your teeth, don’t neglect the final step. Leaver & Gardner Orthodontics will create and design retainers that will maintain beautiful and healthy smiles for a lifetime. Give us a call today!