Everything You Need To Know About Retainers

Orthodontic treatment is a worthwhile investment in improved oral health and a beautiful smile, but it takes work to make sure that you don’t lose your hard-earned progress. Here at Cowan Orthodontics, it’s always exciting when a patient’s braces come off or they use their last aligner, but that’s just a step in the lifetime journey of maintaining a healthy smile! Every orthodontic journey is rounded out with a retainer, an appliance that’s essential for achieving long-lasting results. Many patients don’t understand how important retainers are for keeping their new smile once active treatment is complete, so keep reading below to learn everything you need to know about retainers! 

What is a retainer, anyway? How does it work?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance, just like braces and aligners. Wearing a retainer regularly helps to keep your newly straightened teeth in place by preventing a phenomenon known as “relapse.” This describes the natural tendency of the teeth to drift back to their original, unadjusted positions over time, even after orthodontic treatment is complete. 

Although relapse occurs most often in the late teens and early twenties, it can happen at any time. That’s because your teeth tend to “remember” where they were originally positioned in your mouth, and if there’s no pressure on them, they’ll begin shifting back towards those spaces. After braces or aligners are no longer needed, Dr. Cowan or Dr. Whitaker will use an impression of your teeth to create a custom-designed retainer for you. This retainer will provide the pressure that’s necessary to keep your teeth in their new positions instead of moving back to the old ones! 

It’s very important to wear your retainer exactly as directed. Failure to do so can undo all your hard-earned progress and, over time, leave your smile right back where it began. This can happen faster than you may think, so be sure to stick to the guidelines you’re given along with your retainer. 

What types of retainers are available?

There are fixed and removable retainers available, and Dr. Cowan will be able to determine which style is best for you based on your needs, your preference, and the level of compliance he expects from you. 

Fixed retainers

A fixed retainer consists of a thin wire that’s been positioned across the interior surface of the lower or upper front teeth, then bonded into place with glue. This wire stretches across several teeth, so good dental hygiene may require a bit more effort, particularly when it comes to flossing. Because the bonded wire does such an incredible job at keeping newly straightened teeth in place, this retainer tends to have the best outcome overall! And it comes with a bonus, too—you’ll never forget to wear it or worry about losing it since it stays in your mouth. 

Removable retainers

There are a couple of different options when it comes to removable retainers. The Hawley retainer is made of a wire and acrylic material, and the Essix retainer is composed of a clear plastic material similar to the kind used with Invisalign aligners. Both styles are custom-made to fit your mouth following the first phase of orthodontic treatment. 

Hawley retainers

Hawley retainers have been around for a long time, and are probably one of the most recognizable appliances we have. They’re kept in place by a wire that wraps around the teeth then combines with an acrylic arch. This arch rests against the roof of the mouth. The stainless steel wires can continue to be adjusted to achieve minor movement of the front teeth if needed. Although many orthodontists are currently moving away from this more traditional retainer, it can still be very useful for most patients. 

Essix retainers

Essix retainers have become very popular recently with both orthodontists and patients. They’re made from a transparent plastic material and look similar to the trays that are used with the Invisalign system. An Essix retainer is molded to the unique shape of your mouth and much less noticeable than the more traditional wire retainers. It should last as long as you need it as long as you take good care of it! 

It’s really easy to keep your teeth and gums clean with either of these removable options since they make dental hygiene simple. However, you will be responsible for wearing your removable retainer exactly as directed by Dr. Cowan. To avoid misplacing or damaging it, be careful when handling your retainer and be mindful of where it is at all times.

Keep your smile in place with a retainer from Cowan Orthodontics

Most orthodontic experts now agree that most patients will need to wear some type of retainer indefinitely post-treatment, although in most cases only at night or part-time. This is the best way to achieve a beautifully straight smile that will last a lifetime! Don’t let that recommendation scare you away—before you know it, your retainer will be just another part of your daily routine.  

At Cowan Orthodontics, our expert team is committed to finding exactly the right orthodontic treatment for your special smile. That includes finding the right type of retainer for your needs! Our goal is to provide you with personalized care and world-class service from your first visit to your last—and beyond. Wherever you are in the treatment process, we’ve got you covered! 

Do you have questions or concerns about your treatment plan or using a retainer? We’d love to hear from you, so get in touch today and let us know what you need. We’ll be happy to help you however we can!