For many of us, the thought of retainers invokes an awkward high-schooler with a bulky hunk of plastic holding their teeth in place. With any orthodontic treatment, however, they are a necessity - and not just for teenagers! Thankfully technology, as it has with everything else, has made retainers a lot less inconvenient. We’ll take a look here at a few different types of retainers, but first:
What do retainers do and why are the necessary?
The name says it all - retainers literally retain the current position of your teeth. The periodontal tissue and bone surrounding your teeth are stubborn - by their nature they’re inclined to return to their original position. The longer you can “force” your teeth into proper alignment, the more time the surrounding structures have to adapt and stabilize your new bite. Without something keeping them in place, teeth will start to drift back to their initial alignment. This happens much faster than you’d imagine; often in less time than it takes to straighten them in the first place.
That being the case, retainers can be viewed as insurance on your teeth straightening investment. There are two main types of retention:
With this option, a wire is cemented to the lingual (facing the tongue) side of the upper teeth, lower teeth, or in some cases both, to prevent the teeth from shifting.
There are two main kinds of removable retainers: ones made of metal (which attaches to the teeth) fused to an acrylic plate (which sits on the roof of the mouth), and ones that are entirely acrylic and cover only the teeth. Both types are custom fitted to your teeth toward the end of orthodontic treatment; how often you need to wear them depends on your orthodontist’s recommendation. In our office, we typically use removable retainers and advocate their use overnight every night following treatment.
What kind of retainer is right for me?
The type of retainer that will work for you depends on the specifics of your case and your daily habits. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist today to see which retainer will work best for you!