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Guide to Retainers

The Retainer Rundown

Getting your braces removed is a significant and exciting day. However, the treatment doesn’t end there. Just because your braces are gone doesn’t mean you can expect straight teeth without intentional care. Wearing your retainer is critical for preventing your teeth from shifting after your braces are removed. We receive a lot of questions about retainers, how they work, and the importance of wearing them. We want to answer all of your frequently asked questions regarding the importance of retainers to help you make the most of your beautiful new smile. 

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What does a retainer do?

Retainers are customized devices worn after your braces are removed to maintain the new, straighter position of your teeth. While you’re undergoing braces treatment, your teeth will gradually become straighter, but without braces, your teeth can shift back to their former position or become misaligned without the use of a retainer. 

In order to protect your investment and to keep your teeth straight, it’s important to wear your retainer as often as directed by your orthodontist or dentist, typically every night and whenever possible during the day.

Are there different kinds of retainers? What is the difference?

There are a few different types of retainers, and while they all seek to keep your teeth straighter after braces, they do work differently. The type of retainer you receive will depend on your specific situation. Your orthodontist or dentist will be able to recommend which retainer is best for you. 

Hawley Retainers

With a wire that keeps your teeth firmly in place, a Hawley retainer is one of the most effective types of retainers for post-braces treatment. To create the custom, comfortable fit of a Hawley retainer, your orthodontist will begin by taking a mold of your mouth. Because Hawley retainers come in a multitude of colors and patterns, patients are able to customize their retainer, making the process a bit more fun and exciting.  

Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are just that - permanent. Permanent retainers are bonded to the backside of your front teeth, making them irremovable. Permanent retainers are ideal for those who may not be inclined to wear a retainer each night or who don’t want to worry about the hassle of having to remove and reinsert retainers before and after meals. Another feature patients tend to love about permanent retainers is that they are nearly invisible and undetectable by others. 

Essix Retainers

Another type of removable retainer is an Essix retainer. Similar to a Hawley retainer, these are clear molded trays that provide a custom fit. The invisibility factor of an Essix retainer is the main reason many patients love this option. If your braces were intended to correct minor adjustments or misalignments, an Essix retainer may be a comfortable and convenient option for you.

How long do I have to wear a retainer?

Depending on your specific situation, your orthodontist will recommend a set amount of hours per day to wear your retainer. Typically, we encourage our patients to wear their retainer at night and in between meals. Once a certain length of time has passed, your orthodontist may recommend only wearing your retainer at night. For patients who have permanent retainers, they may wear them for years on end. However, the most important time to consistently wear your retainer is immediately after orthodontic treatment in order to prevent movement. 

How do I clean my retainer?

Though retainers are responsible for maintaining your straight teeth, you are responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of your retainer. It’s important for patients to be aware of the dangers behind bacteria buildup and the health concerns which can arise from wearing a dirty retainer. 

How to Clean Hawley and Essix Retainers

Removable retainers should be cleaned every day when removed. Because it is still wet, it’s easier to remove any bacteria or debris that have formed while worn. Removable retainers should also be washed after meals. Using your toothbrush to lightly scrub your retainer is a step that should be added to your daily oral hygiene routine. If you’re looking for a deep cleaning method, consider soaking your retainer in warm water with gentle dish soap. 

Retainer Brite Cleaning Tablets

Another way to clean your removable retainers is Retainer Brite tablets. This method is effective and easy, making it convenient for any patient. Simple put your retainer and one tablet into a cool cup of water and allow it to soak for 10-20 minutes to thoroughly disinfect your retainer. 

How to Clean Permanent Retainers

Cleaning a permanent retainer requires practice, but can be easily done by any patient. Because these retainers are attached to your teeth, you must keep up with a consistent flossing schedule. If not cleaned regularly, permanent retainers can play a role in the buildup of plaque and tartar. 

What happens if I don’t wear my retainer?

Many patients are unaware of the natural shifting of teeth without external pressure. Some may even make the mistake of refusing to wear a retainer, causing the expense of braces to go down the drain. As you age, your teeth will naturally shift. If you had braces, your teeth will want to shift back to their original position if you do not care for them properly. Therefore, it’s incredibly important for you to wear your retainer to prevent this from happening. 

Why do my teeth hurt when I wear my retainer?

If you aren’t consistently wearing your retainer during proper times throughout the day, you may be experiencing some pain when placing it back into your mouth. This pain is the result of pressure being applied to areas of your mouth that are trying to shift back to their initial positions. If you are following your orthodontist’s directions correctly and are still experiencing pain, we recommend scheduling a visit to find a solution. 

How much does a new retainer cost?

Depending on the type of retainer you use, the price range will vary. Removable Hawley and Essix retainers are typically less expensive compared to a bonded/permanent retainer. Retainers can range from $100-$1000 or more. Therefore, it’s extremely important to maintain and keep up with your retainer to protect your initial braces investment and so you don’t have to purchase a retainer again. 

Can I eat with my retainer in?

Unless you have a permanent/bonded retainer, always take your retainer out before eating a meal. Eating with a retainer can cause damage to the retainer and to your mouth. Drinking clear beverages with a retainer is typically okay, but be sure to wash it once you take it out to cleanse any bacteria buildup from sugars and other ingredients in drinks other than water. 

Are retainer checkups necessary?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes! Though many patients are surprised to hear that they will need to continue scheduling appointments for checkups after braces treatment, it’s important to know the benefits of checking in with your orthodontist while wearing a retainer. 

For those with removable retainers, your orthodontist will be able to see any movement or a potential need for improvement or change. Patients with permanent retainers will also receive feedback on the maintenance and cleanliness of their bonded retainer. During these checkups, your orthodontist is able to give recommendations and advice for keeping your straight teeth in place and how to better care for your oral health in the long run. 

Retainers at Parris Orthodontics in Germantown, TN

Our team at Parris Orthodontics works hard to see our patients leave with a beautiful and confident smile when they walk out our door. We know the importance of wearing a retainer after braces, and want to give our patients the best advice and care possible. 

Learn More About Braces and Retainers

If you’re interested in retainers or braces, schedule an appointment today to let us help you find the perfect solution to a confident smile! Do you have questions, thoughts, or concerns about your retainer? Contact us today for information and advice!


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