Friday 30 July 2021
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A Complete Guide to Retainers

Any type of orthodontic treatment require patients to wear a retainer after their treatment has finished. Some may gasp and throw their hands in the air, but wearing a retainer after braces or Invisalign is an essential step in the teeth straightening process. Of course, the duration and frequency of wearing a retainer will vary from person to person, and some patients will have it easier than others. To shed some light into the topic, we’ll be providing you with a complete guide to retainers in today’s article.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is a custom-made device typically made from wires or clear plastic that hold teeth into their position post-treatment. There are two types of retainers – removable and fixed, and your orthodontist will decide which retainer is best for you. Removable retainers must be worn at all times to start with and the frequency is generally reduced after a year or so to only during the night. Removable retainers are available in two types:

  • Acrylic – The most common type of removable retainer which is made from acrylic and bendable wires and are available in different colours
  • Clear plastic – The most popular choice of removable retainers because they are made from moulded clear plastic that fit over your teeth like a super thin mouthguard. They are less visible than acrylic retainers

On the other hand, fixed retainers are essentially a thin metal wire that is bonded to the back of your teeth. Some patients require fixed retainers on both the top and bottom teeth, however the advantage of fixed retainers is they aren’t visible to other people. Fixed retainers are generally required for roughly 5 years.

Why do I need to wear a retainer?

A retainer must be worn to ensure your teeth stay in their new position after treatment has finished. Any type of orthodontic treatment applies pressure to the teeth and gums to activate the ‘bone remodelling’ process which allows teeth to be moved into their desired position. When treatment has finished, the ligaments and tissue in the mouth needs time to adjust in their new position. Without wearing a retainer, your teeth will begin to relapse into their old position because your body believes that is where they belong.

How do I care for my retainer?

As you’ll be wearing your retainer every day, you must regularly wash and clean your retainer to remove the build-up of bacteria, plaque, and food particles that accumulate. Your saliva also contains calcium which can build-up on your retainer if you don’t clean it properly.  If you’ve ever noticed white spots on your retainer, this is due to calcium deposits from your saliva.

Ideally, you should wash your retainer every time you take it out of your mouth. The dry air will cause plaque and calcium to solidify quickly so you should rinse it with water after removing it (when eating for example). You should also clean your retainer once a day with a soft bristled toothbrush using water or mild dish soap and soak your container once a week in either denture cleaner or specialised retainer cleaner.

How will my retainer affect my daily life?

Apart from having to remove your retainer when eating and cleaning, they will largely go unnoticed in your daily life. There will be a transition period where your mouth needs to become accustomed to your retainer. During this transition period, your teeth may feel some pressure or soreness until your mouth adjusts and your speech may also be affected in the first few days. Additionally, your mouth will produce more saliva than normal however all of this is to be expected.

Once your mouth has settled, there will be some maintenance in the form of regular washing and cleaning, however you won’t experience any further pain because your teeth are already in the desired position and your retainer is designed to keep them this way!

Don’t forget, you’re almost there!

After putting in years of hard work, the last thing you need is for your teeth to start relapsing because of a lack of discipline with your retainer. You’ll get used to wearing your retainer in no time and before you know it, it will just be a nightly occurrence. If you have any further questions regarding your retainer or how to clean it properly, get in touch with the specialists at Clear Smile Orthodontics on the Gold Coast by phoning 07 5593 3733.