Prosthodontics, Implants, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry

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Orthodontic Retainers

Once your dentist has finished straightening your teeth using braces, the use of retainers thereafter becomes a very crucial part of the continuing maintenance of the teeth. Orthodontic retainers help maintain the same bite and smile formed by braces over the previous years. You will need the retainers no matter what type of orthodontic system or braces were used. The return of features of your original malocclusion is likely to occur if proper retention is not put in place. The same dentist that performed the orthodontic treatment is the one who’ll fabricate retainers specifically for you in order to ensure they perfectly fit your mouth. Your doctor will use cutting-edge techniques to ensure retainers are as effective as possible.

How are Retainers Made?

Making orthodontic retainers perfectly may take a bit of time since they are customized for the patient. Retainers are typically made from clear plastic or wires. They are designed by fabricating the retainers out of wire and/or acrylic material that will take the shape of the newly straightened teeth. The lab technician must take special care in the process in order to ensure the retainers will be effective and comfortable. The end product is sanitized and inserted in the patient’s mouth during a special appointment once it has been created.

What Orthodontic Retainers Do

 Most individuals are familiar with braces but do not quite understand the importance or role of retainers. In short, retainers are designed in a way that they will leave no wiggle room that might allow for backsliding of the teeth after the removal of braces. In order for your mouth to adapt to the new shape of your teeth after the braces are removed, they will need something that will keep everything stable while ensuring straighter teeth. More often, retainers must be worn for several years, if not for the foreseeable future. Your dentist will give you the recommended amount of time each day to wear your retainers. That could be wearing them throughout the day and can also be reduced to just nightly wear during the second year. A patient can also phase out the retainer entirely. The retainer schedule will be highly dependent on the unique circumstances of your teeth and your doctor will provide the best instructions as per your unique situation.

Why You Should Wear a Retainer

  • Helps chew away bacteria

When your teeth are straighter, cleaning becomes easier, plaque buildup is cut down and the chances of cavities are reduced. Straight teeth help patients have a correct bite and enable kids to chew their food more effectively. Better chewing usually results in the attainment of more nutrients from the food. Additionally, it results in more saliva production which means more production of digestive enzymes decrease cavities and cut down on plaque buildup.

  • Helps simplify diabetes

Poor oral health can aggravate the blood-related effects of diabetes. When retainers are worn correctly, they help keep teeth aligned and this offsets the risk of poor oral health. In addition, one must ensure that they brush, floss, and rinse their retainers with the recommended products to help counteract diabetes-related ailments.

Types of Orthodontic Retainers

There are generally two kinds of retainers; Permanent (fixed, bonded) retainers and Removable retainers. Just as the names suggest, the main difference between the two is that one is permanently attached while the other is worn and removed according to the dentist’s instructions. The removable retainers are further subdivided into Essix Retainers and Hawley Retainers. It’s quite common for a patient to wear more than one kind of retainer with the most common configurations being: Essix on the upper teeth and fixed on the lower, or Hawley on upper teeth and permanent on lower.

When it comes to the choice of orthodontic retainers, there’s no single best type for everyone. It’s therefore imperative to ask your dentist questions regarding the type of appliance they see as the best fit for you. This should also come with a detailed explanation of the specific advantages and disadvantages that will come with the one offered in your situation. The retainers come after your dentist has provided you with months to years of treatment and therefore you should carefully listen to what the dentist has to say about the new form of treatment. Following the instructions offered is highly crucial because it determines the success of your orthodontic over the remainder of your life.

Fixed Orthodontic Retainers

A fixed retainer is usually a thin wire which is bonded in place with a cement is worn across the back (tongue or palate side) of the front teeth. This type of wire stretches across several teeth and therefore, the spaces between the teeth can be accessed using a floss threader. With a flossing threader, the user is able to floss underneath the wire and this makes it possible to floss the portion of their teeth in that region. Cleaning, in this case, is similar to how it’s done when braces are worn. This type of retainer takes a little more work to keep clean but that should not be a problem. However, it is important to note that it has the best outcome given that the newly straightened teeth will be held by the bonded wire in perfect formation 24/7. Bonded retainers are usually used in patients with serious alignment issues and those whose teeth are very likely to revert back once braces are removed.  Fixed retainers are typically left in place indefinitely unless there are reasons for the removal.

  • Advantages of fixed retainers

With fixed retainers in place, compliance is never a concern. This, therefore, implies that the dentist doesn’t have to rely on the cooperation of the patient. Fixed appliances are always in place to perform their duty and therefore highly advantageous compared to removable retainers because a patient may misplace them or choose not to wear them entirely.

Another great advantage of permanent retainers is that it's difficult for others to detect them because they are placed on the backside of the teeth. This makes them the most esthetic type of retainer. It's also important to note that bonded appliances, when compared to removable retainers, usually don’t affect an individual’s speech.

  • Disadvantages

When it comes to bonded retainers, cleaning and especially flossing becomes more difficult and maintaining oral hygiene, therefore, becomes a problem. Failure to properly maintain the appliance will result in the accumulation of dental plaque and tartar in the region of the retainer. This situation may place the person at greater risk for complications including gum disease. For individuals who are severely affected, the dentist may opt to have the bonded retainers removed and another form of retention used.

Removable Orthodontic Retainers

There are basically two categories of removable retainers and these are Essix and Hawley retainers. Essix retainers are made of clear and can also be referred to as “invisible” retainers. They also fully cover the teeth and even in some instances the surrounding gum tissue and for this reason, they can be referred to as overlay retainers. They are vacuum-formed and quite easy to fabricate. In most cases, dentists make them in their office by first taking an impression of the patient’s teeth and then transforming it into a plaster cast. A thin sheet of plastic is then heated and sucked down over the cast using a vacuum unit. The excess plastic is then trimmed away. The appearance of Essix retainers is similar to that of Invisalign aligners. The difference is that the Essix appliances are worn indefinitely as per the instruction of your dentist instead of going back for a new one every few weeks.

The Hawley retainers are the oldest type and have a design that includes the use of wires and clasps anchored in a relatively thick plastic body. In this case, the roof of the patient’s mouth is covered by the plastic body. The retainer is anchored securely by the clasps that hold onto selected teeth. The wire used to align the teeth runs across the front side of the teeth. Since a Hawley retainer is adjustable, it can be used to refine the alignment of your teeth further. It can also be used to guide your teeth back into place if you’ve failed to wear the appliance faithfully. This type of retainer can be repaired if damaged. The main disadvantage of wearing this appliance is that other people will know when you have the retainer worn because the wire runs across the front side of the teeth.

It is easy to remove this type of retainers when you need to eat, brush or floss. However, this also becomes a disadvantage since it can be easy to misplace the appliance. These appliances are also associated with excessive salivation since the body misinterprets its presence for a meal. However, this will be the case for a short time until your body gets used to it and realizes the extra saliva is not required.

Using retainers after braces is meant to ensure a lifetime of straight teeth and a better bite. It’s crucial to discuss your post-treatment options with your dentist if you’re about to get your dental braces off. Contact us and speak with an operator today at 818-708-3232.