Why Retainers Are So Important For Your Smile

Here at Hamer & Glassick Orthodontics, we know how much time, effort, and hard work you put into successfully completing your orthodontic treatment. Once the finish line is in sight, it can be really exciting, and getting your braces off or using your last aligner is certainly worth celebrating!

It’s important to remember, however, that this is just the first part to achieving a new smile. There’s still a second phase of treatment needed to round things out and help your teeth stay in their new and improved positions.

Retainers are an essential part of that process! You’ve likely heard us mention that many times over the course of your treatment, but that’s because retainer use is critical to keeping your smile in place once the active phase of treatment is complete. To learn why retainers are so important, keep reading below.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is simply an orthodontic appliance that has been modeled after and designed for your mouth once the initial remodeling phase of treatment is complete. They are generally made by taking an impression of your newly straightened teeth, then creating the retainer from either a clear plastic material or an acrylic material with wire.

Just like braces or aligners, a retainer can take some getting used to, but it doesn’t take much time for them to become a regular part of your routine! Even though there may be some slight discomfort initially, it’s important to wear your retainer exactly as directed. If you don’t, your teeth could shift back into their old positions over time.

Why are retainers important?

No matter what type of orthodontic treatment you’ve had, there is a phenomenon known as relapse that may occur with the teeth. This usually begins in the late teens or early twenties and continues throughout adulthood. It describes the natural tendency of your teeth to drift back towards their original positions, even after orthodontic treatment has been completed. Retainers are the key to holding your teeth in place by keeping this drifting at bay.

Dr. Hamer and Dr. Glassick

What are the different types of retainers?

There are two types of retainers, fixed and removable. When determining which is best for you, Dr. Hamer and Dr. Glassick will look at your specific needs, preferences, and the level of compliance expected.

Fixed retainers

With a fixed retainer, we position a thin wire across the interior surface of the lower or upper front teeth, then bond it into place with glue. Because this wire stretches across several teeth, dental care is similar to braces, requiring a little extra effort and upkeep. However, it does tend to have the best outcome overall since the bonded wire keeps the newly straightened teeth in a more ideal alignment over time. As an added bonus, you never have to worry about remembering to wear it!

Removable retainers

When it comes to removable retainers, there are a couple of options available. The Hawley retainer is made of a wire and acrylic material, and the Essix retainer is composed of a clear plastic material similar to the aligners used with a system like Invisalign. Both are custom-made to fit your mouth following orthodontic treatment.

Hawley retainers

This is one of the oldest and most recognizable orthodontic appliances! Hawley retainers combine an acrylic arch against the roof of your mouth with a wire that wraps around your teeth. The stainless steel wires can continue to be adjusted to achieve minor movement of the front teeth if needed.

Although many orthodontists are currently moving away from this traditional retainer, it can still be very useful in some cases. Because these retainers can be a bit more fragile than others, it’s important to take good care of yours if you’re given one to use.

To properly care for a Hawley retainer, you should:

  • clean it daily to remove any bacteria and food debris
  • keep it away from heat or hot water
  • store it in its case when you are not wearing it

Hawley retainers can also be gently cleaned once a day by using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste. Soaking it in denture cleaner a few times each week will help freshen it up and kill any germs that may be hiding in the grooves of the mold.

Vivera retainers

Hamer & Glassick Orthodontics are proud to offer Vivera retainers to patients entering the retention stage of treatment. From the makers of Invisalign, these retainers are made of a transparent plastic material that looks and feels similar to Invisalign aligners. Each one is molded to the unique shape of your mouth, offering a more precise fit and more comfortable feel.

Vivera retainers also possess a unique strength, thanks to innovative technology and materials. In fact, they can be up to 30% stronger than traditional retainers! and is much less noticeable than traditional wire retainers. This not only keeps your teeth in the desired positions, it also reduces the risk of the retainer cracking or breaking. We do offer four sets of these retainers, though, so there’s always a backup if one is lost or broken somehow!

Your Vivera retainer should last as long as you need it, provided you care for it properly. That includes:

  • rinsing the retainer in cold water each time you take it out, and before you put it back in
  • storing the retainer in a plastic case whenever you are not wearing it
  • brushing the retainer after each meal, using a soft toothbrush with cool water
  • never placing the retainer in hot water, since the heat can shrink it
  • washing the retainer with a specialized cleaner once every few months

With removable retainers, you will have to remember to wear them exactly as directed in order for them to work properly. To avoid misplacing or damaging your retainer, be careful when handling it and be mindful of where it is at all times (and keep it away from the family pets!)

Dr. Hamer smiling with a patient

Keep your smile in place with Hamer & Glassick Orthodontics

Most orthodontists now know that the most successful smiles may need to wear some type of retainer indefinitely, at least on a part-time basis. Don’t let that put you off! With a little patience, your retainer will quickly become just another part of your daily routine.

While we normally recommend one or the other for patients, there are some special cases that may require the use of both permanent and removable retainers together to ensure no relapses occur. If we feel this option would be a good fit for your smile, we’ll discuss it with you first and answer any questions you may have..

Here at Hamer & Glassick Orthodontics, our expert team works hard to provide you with individualized care and the best orthodontic experience possible, wherever you are in the treatment process. To learn more about using retainers to keep your teeth in place and a smile on your face, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation!