Retainers for Teeth

Orthodontist Serving Denver, Cherry Creek, Stapleton & Nearby Areas Of Colorado

Retainers keep your newly straightened teeth aligned for the long-term. Without retainers, your teeth will begin to shift and could become crooked again. There are several types of retainers and orthodontist Robert Rudman will help you find the right one for you.

To learn more, or to arrange a consultation at our Denver-area practice, please call Advanced Orthodontic Care at 303-331-0222.

Retainers woman smiling

Why Wear A Retainer After Braces?

Teeth are prone to "relapse," which means they want to shift and return to their former positions. Once your orthodontic treatment phase is complete, the retention phase is necessary to keep your teeth in their new, straight positions.

Retention protocols vary based on your specific case, but for most patients, Dr. Rudman will prescribe a constant use of the retainer for a certain period of weeks. During this time, you'll remove the retainers only to eat, and to brush and floss. This constant wear is essential when your braces first come off. The ligaments, bone and tissues surrounding your teeth will be adapting to the new alignment of your teeth. After this period of time, Dr. Rudman will likely recommend nightly wear of your retainer.

Which Type of Retainer Is Best For Me?

There are three basic types:

Clear plastic retainers, which are also call Essix retainers. These trays are customized to your teeth using impressions of your bite after your braces come off. They are easily removed and re-inserted over your teeth.

Retainer Essix

Permanent/bonded retainers, which are a thin wire bonded to the back surface of the teeth. Also called a fixed retainer, these wires are most often placed on the back of the lower teeth. One of these retainers may also be placed behind the upper front teeth. Bonded retainers can be very important if the teeth were previously gapped, rotated or badly misaligned. The bonded wire ensures there will be constant retention on teeth at a high risk of relapse.

Hawley retainers, which consist of an acrylic base and wires that wrap around the teeth. The wires can be adjusted for various purposes. These retainers are a little less common than the two other types.

Retainer hawley

Dr. Rudman will recommend the retainer that will work best for you. Oftentimes, a bonded retainer combined with nightly wear of an Essix retainer is the most effective.

Can I Get a Retainer Instead of Braces?

Some people like the idea of closing a gap or straightening their teeth with a retainer, and skipping the braces altogether. While this is theoretically possible for the most minor, tiny adjustments, it would take several years or longer and could end up being ineffective. Retainers are designed to retain movement that has already happened, not to perform the movement itself.

Using a retainer to straighten teeth is generally not a good idea and not recommended by orthodontists committed to your best results. If you are averse to the idea of wearing braces and looking for an alternative, arrange a consultation with Dr. Rudman to learn more about those options. Invisalign® uses clear teeth trays to straighten teeth, while Incognito® braces are placed on the inner, tongue-facing surface of your teeth. Dr. Rudman can determine if you are a candidate for either of these. Even if you'd benefit most from traditional braces, clear brackets may be an option for a lower profile.

Dr. Rudman wants you to enjoy strong, aligned teeth and a beautiful smile. As such, he will recommend the range of treatments he knows will work best for you in the long run.

Retainer types infographic

Who Is an Ideal Candidate for Retainers?

Retainers are ideal if you want to ensure that your teeth remain straight for years to come. The most common candidates for retainers have just finished orthodontic treatment with braces or clear aligners. Generally, it is a bad idea to use retainers to make adjustments without braces.

Dental retainers also have other purposes beyond moving teeth. For example, some types of retainers can help children break thumb-sucking habits or treat a condition called tongue thrust. 

That said, retainers are primarily used to prevent teeth from shifting out of their proper positions. Retainers are an important and necessary component of all successful orthodontic treatments.

Will I Need To Wear Retainers While I Sleep?

Most patients are advised to wear their retainers overnight. But there is no reason to feel daunted about the idea of sleeping with retainers. They should not cause discomfort after you get used to them. And some retainers can have the added benefit of preventing teeth grinding.

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can disrupt your sleep. It may cause you to wake up with symptoms like jaw pain, facial soreness, and headaches. It can even damage your teeth. 

Will My Retainers Be Noticeable?

Modern dental retainers come in a variety of styles. Some are more noticeable than others. 

Clear retainers that fit over the teeth are similar to Invisalign® trays in terms of appearance. They are discreet, and other people may not be able to tell that you are wearing them at all.

Permanent bonded retainers are even more undetectable. That is because these tiny wires are fixed to the back surface of your teeth. Some patients also enjoy the convenience of this option.

Meanwhile, Hawley retainers are the most noticeable. They feature a plastic or acrylic base connected to a thin wire that goes across the front of your teeth. While arguably the most well-known type of dental retainer, they are not as common today as they once were.

Do I Need To Remove Retainers While Playing Sports?

It is best to remove your retainer before playing sports. It could become damaged or lost. And if you hurt your mouth or take a blow to the face, your retainer will not offer any sort of protection. 

Take your retainer out and store it in a case where it will be safe while you are physically active. Consider wearing a mouthguard instead because it can help prevent an oral injury.

Of course, bonded retainers cannot be removed for anything, including playing sports. You may be advised to wear a mouthguard to keep your retainer and smile safe during these activities.

Know that these recommendations can vary depending on the nature of the sport. Talk to our orthodontist for personalized advice. He will be able to tell you exactly when you should remove your retainer. 

Do I Wear My Retainer for Life?

Lifetime nightly wear of your retainer will keep your teeth straight. Some people reduce their wear to 2-3 nights per week, which may be sufficient. Teeth continue to want to shift, years after your orthodontic treatment is complete. Retainers prevent them from doing so. If you were to stop wearing your retainer down the road, your teeth will eventually tilt, shift and could become crooked again.

How Can I Care For & Maintain My Retianters Long-Term?

When you receive your retainer, our team will go over all the care instructions so you know what to do. Here are the main takeaways for removable retainers:

  • Clean your retainer. When you remove your retainers in the morning, rinse them under luke-warm water before storing them. Don't use hot water because the temperature could potentially warp the plastic. To remove built up deposits, submerge your retainers in a denture cleaning solution once a week or so.
  • Don't clean with toothpaste. The paste is abrasive and will scrape up the surface of the retainers at some point.
  • Don't clean with bleach or any other harsh chemicals. Stick to water and denture solution.
  • Store your retainer in its case. It's easy to lose track of these small, clear aligners. So be sure to put them in their case when you aren't wearing them.
  • Store retainers away from pets. Dogs in particular tend to be attracted to the smell of retainers and have been known to chew them up or eat them. If you have dogs, keep retainers stored where they can't get to them.

Bonded retainers require the extra step of threaded floss. This floss has a stiff end that can be inserted beneath the wire, allowing you to floss between your teeth. It's important to floss beneath the bonded retainer, even though it requires a little extra effort.

Learn More about Retainers

Dr. Rudman and our team are happy to answer all of your questions about retainers, and what retainers can and cannot do. To learn more or to arrange a consultation at our Denver and Stapleton-area office, please call Advanced Orthodontic Care at 303-331-0222.

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