A Brief History of Retainers

Years ago, patients and orthodontists alike thought you could straighten your teeth and they would stay straight forever. Research has now shown that the only way to guarantee straight teeth for life is through the use of fixed or removable retainers for life. Retainers are extremely important in the maintenance of your new smile following orthodontic treatment.

Fixed (Permanent) Retainer

A fixed retainer is typically placed (glued) on the inside surfaces of the lower front teeth. This type of retainer can be attached to the two canine teeth or to every tooth in the area. A fixed retainer is very efficient at maintaining the positions of the teeth in certain situations.4 If Dr. Hulse decides to place a fixed retainer, it will make cleaning between your teeth more difficult. Ask your Dr. Hulse, dentist, and dental hygienist for tips and tricks to help you keep your teeth clean while wearing a fixed retainer. With proper care and regular visits to your general dentist, your fixed retainer can be left in place until lower jaw growth is completed (early adulthood) or indefinitely, as indicated.

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers have been used successfully for many years and are probably the most common type of retainer. Patients identify immediately with the wire that runs across the front teeth to help maintain tooth alignment and symmetry. The Hawley retainer is probably the most popular type of removable retainer. It is made of plastic and stainless steel wire and is custom-made for your mouth and teeth. Variations of this type of retainer are too numerous to list, but they all achieve the same result – maintenance of your new smile for life.

Since removable retainers can be taken out, patients frequently ask how long they need to wear the retainer. Most relapse, or unwanted tooth movement, occurs in the first 6 months after the braces are removed. For the average patent, you will wear your removable retainer full-time for the first 6 months, and thereafter only while sleeping. If your Dr. Hulse recommends a period of time longer or shorter than this, he is protecting your smile against the factors we mentioned at the beginning of the article. For example, a patient with severely misaligned jaws and teeth might wear retainers for a longer duration than a patient with only minor tooth-alignment problems. If you are unsure of your retention program, be sure to ask your Dr. Hulse or an orthodontic assistant for specific instructions regarding the wear and care of your retainers.

Clear or Invisible Retainers

With the advent of new, clear plastic materials in orthodontics, patients can benefit from more esthetic options during the retention phase of orthodontic treatment. Clear retainers are comfortable, esthetic, and require no adjustment. However, just like shoes they will wear out in time and will need to be replaced. They will need to be replaced more frequently if they are subject to heavy biting forces. We have found this program to be very beneficial in maintaining healthy, beautiful smiles for life.

Hulse Orthodontics recommends wearing retainers for life. Research has shown that teeth will inevitably shift over time. Choose from many different types of retainers to keep your teeth from shifting. Ask Dr. Hulse what type of retainer would be best for you.

Free Initial Exam

Click here to schedule an appointment.