Dental Retainer FAQ Guide
1. What is a dental retainer?
A dental retainer is a device that uses braces to move teeth into place and hold them in place. It is a plastic or metal device that holds your teeth in place after a patient has completed treatment with braces or invisible aligners. They are specially designed for each patient and prevent teeth from shifting into their original position before receiving braces. After straightening the teeth and removing the braces, the wearer’s teeth remain in a new, unstable position. Therefore, the retainer is usually worn for 4 to 6 months until the new position of the tooth becomes permanent.
2. How are dental retainers installed?
If you’re getting braces, or say installing a dental retainer, you may need treatment first to prepare your mouth. For example, you may need to wear a dilator for several months to widen your upper jaw. It may be necessary to pull a tooth.
When your mouth is ready, your orthodontist or dentist will thoroughly clean your teeth and put your braces on. After that, they’ll have the wires attached. This part is fairly easy and usually takes 30 to 60 minutes.
Most people find their mouth sore after 1 to 2 days because the wires will start pulling on their teeth. Pain relief (such as paracetamol), anti-inflammatories, and ice water can all help.
You will need to see an orthodontist or dentist every 4 to 6 weeks. At each check, they adjust the wires to slowly pull your teeth in the right direction. Your mouth may be sore for 1 to 2 days after each exam. Additionally, pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and ice water can help.
When you have braces on, you need to clean your teeth well. Especially sugary foods and drinks can cause white spots and cavities on the teeth.
When your teeth are properly seated, your braces will be removed and you will have a retainer made. You may or may not need to visit your orthodontist as often.
3. What is the function of a dental retainer?
When you take your braces off, your orthodontist suddenly puts a putty-like thing in your mouth and tells you you need a retainer later. To ensure your smile remains attractive, you must practice proper brace fitting and post-braces care. Here are some main function of a dental retainer:
- Stabilize your bite
- Preventive treatment reversal
- Keep space for wisdom teeth and new teeth
- Align the jawbone with the gums
- Helps teeth stay in place
Generally, retainers are made of metal, plastic, acrylic, or polyurethane and fit the new position of the tooth. This “tool” is strong enough to keep your teeth from returning to their original position. Ultimately, whatever your braces initially straightened will stay straight because of the retainer.
If your teeth are mostly straight and one or two need to be straightened, your orthodontist may install a retainer to help you move the teeth into place. In this case, the job of your retainer is to align your teeth and then keep them aligned once they’re in place. Note that retainers are not the same as braces — braces are essentially clear braces that gradually move your teeth into a straighter position over several cycles.
To make a custom retainer, your orthodontist will make an impression on your teeth. There, they’ll send it to the lab, which will take the mold and design a retainer that fits in your mouth. At your next visit, your orthodontist will make sure it fits you comfortably before giving you instructions on how to wear it.
4. Why do you need to wear a dental retainer?
Orthodontic retainers are as important as an orthodontic treatment to straighten your teeth! Your teeth have moved to their sweet spot, but it will take time for them to adjust to their new biological position and settle down. Retainers “retain” your teeth in their new position, preventing recurrence and damage from expensive orthodontic treatments. The process of rebuilding the bones and fixing the teeth takes about 12 months. Because of this, the first year after orthodontic treatment is crucial.
5. What are the benefits of wearing a dental retainer?
Here’s how a retainer can help with orthodontic treatment:
Once your braces are removed, it takes time for the soft tissue and bone around the teeth to adjust to the change in tooth position. They slowly settle into the new arrangement, and once this happens, there is little chance of recurrence or tooth displacement.
- Keep space for wisdom teeth and new teeth
The most common wearers of braces are adolescents who are still developing. So, they use retainers for the teeth at the same time that the wisdom teeth erupt. As they diligently use retainers, their jaws have the necessary space to accommodate new teeth, such as wisdom teeth. Regular use of retainers ensures that the teeth are not displaced or crowded due to lack of space.
- Prevent treatment reversal
In the months after the braces are removed, the teeth will begin to return to their original positions. The retainer prevents reverse rotation. However, depending on your situation, you may need braces for a few years.
- Align your jawbone and gums
As your teeth align into a new position, the gums and bones around the teeth will take longer to follow. Retaining teeth help speed up alignment and stabilize your teeth.
If you use braces to straighten the gap between the teeth, the teeth will be stable for a longer time. This also applies to severely displaced teeth, large overbites, and underbites. It is important to keep the teeth as they need to move a considerable distance, or move visibly and firmly in a new position until the mouth can adapt to the changes.
6. What types of dental retainers are there on the market?
There are many types of dental retainers on the market, the following are some of the most common.
1) Permanently fixed lingual retainers
Fixed tongue retainers have a wire attached to the back of the tooth. This is typically recommended for those whose teeth are rotated too frequently, crowded, and have widely spaced teeth prior to orthodontic treatment. The best thing about a fixed retainer is that it is a permanent retainer (sticks to the teeth) and you have no way of getting it out. However, they are difficult to clean and over time can lead to plaque build-up and subsequent dental problems. So, be sure to clean it carefully.
2) Removable Hawleywire retainer
Removable Hawleywire retainers are made of bendable wire and plastic or acrylic material. The wire is passed through the front of the tooth, and the plastic or acrylic part is custom-made to fit snugly in the mouth. Both upper and lower teeth can be treated with it. With these retainers, you can choose from a wide variety of styles and colors. Because this type of retainer is easily adjustable, your orthodontist has the flexibility to adjust the back braces they need for better results. Hawley retainers are constructed to allow natural tooth contact for added comfort. It can last for a long time if it is properly cared for. They are easier to clean.
3) A clear plastic dental retainer
These are removable retainers designed to fit your newly positioned teeth perfectly. They are molded from clear plastic and aligned similar to Invisalign. They are also called molded retainers. These are one of the most popular types of dental retainer because they are virtually invisible compared to the Hawley retainer. Other advantages are that they are less bulky and less likely to interfere with your speech.
However, unlike Hawley retainers, they do not allow natural contact between the upper and lower teeth, which may be considered a disadvantage by some. Because the plastic eventually wears out and may even crack, the retainer has a relatively short lifespan.
7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of removable and permanent dental retainers?
After months of dedication and taking good care of your teeth, your braces are finally coming out. You now have the smile you’ve longed for. But you’re not done yet. Now is the time to make some decisions about dental retainers. Teeth will naturally return to their original position after treatment but the function of the retainer behind braces is to hold them in place so they do not recur.
There are two main types of dental retainers – removable retainers and permanent retainers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types. Read on to learn more about both types before you make a decision.
1) Removable retainers
Removable retainers are made of clear plastic sheets that fit perfectly against the teeth. They hold your teeth tightly, helping them stop the teeth from moving back into place. Removable invisible braces should be worn day and night for 2 to 3 months. After that, only at night. Even if you take good care of your teeth, removable retainers need to be worn for at least 10 years after treatment. This ensures that you still have the smile you earned from your hard work.
- The transparent retainer is almost invisible and easy to wear. You don’t have to wear them all day, only at night. It completely covers the teeth, keeping them in their new position.
- Easier to clean and maintain because it can be disassembled. Removable retainers help maintain good oral hygiene because you can remove them before brushing and flossing. Ideal for patients with dental restorations such as fillings and crowns as it protects the teeth if they clench and grind their teeth.
- Easy teeth whitening and clear retention after treatment. The patient can apply bleach inside the retainer and use it as a bleaching tray.
- Remove the removable immobilizer when exercising or eating.
- Patients usually lose them.
2) Permanent retainers
A permanent retainer is also called bonded retainer or fixed retainer. They stick behind the teeth to avoid recurrence and are useful in treating large spaces between the front incisors. They help keep the space closed.
- In the most prone to recurrence, permanent retainers are ideal.
- The permanent retainer does not need to be removed before meals or other activities, saving daily removal and replacement time.
- Since the retainer is attached between the teeth, using the retainer can prolong the flossing time.
- They can sometimes affect oral hygiene because they are more susceptible to surrounding plaque.
- Hard, sticky, brittle food may cause the retainer to break.
- They are only attached to the 6 front teeth and therefore do not prevent the back teeth from recurring. Sometimes, they cause language barriers.
8. How long do I need to wear a dental retainer?
The average time you wear removable braces is at least 12 months after your braces are removed, and you may need to keep your braces on for the first 4-6 months. But every orthodontic treatment is unique, and the exact time your retainer is worn depends on the type of orthodontic correction you receive. Specifically, wearing a removable dental retainer is divided into several stages.
In some cases, your orthodontist will install a permanent retainer behind your teeth. Patients receiving this treatment will wear the retainer all the time, even while they eat and brush their teeth. This type of retainer can only be removed by a dentist, and when removed, the patient will be given a removable retainer that can be worn while sleeping.
Most patients get a set of retainers that are removed for eating and brushing. We see the best results when our clients wear the retainers according to the following times:
- The first 3-6 months: During this period, braces should be worn for more than 22 hours a day. They should only be removed when brushing, flossing, or eating. Your orthodontist will continue to monitor your progress and then approve you to wear them only at night.
- First 2 years: After your initial full-time wearing time, you will be able to start wearing the retainer only while you sleep.
- From year three to the rest of your life: Now, you can wear fewer braces. Occasionally missing a night or two is no big deal. A good rule of thumb is to wear it every other night.
9. How to take care of your dental retainer?
Here are some things you need to notice to take card of your dental retainer:
1) What you should do:
The first step in caring for your retainers is to maintain strict oral hygiene habits, just like you would with braces.
- Carefully follow the instructions for wearing, cleaning, and storing braces.
- If you wear braces, you need to make sure to floss between the wires that are attached to the teeth so no plaque builds up on them.
- If you wear a removable retainer, wash the retainer with warm water after eating or drinking anything. You can also use toothpaste and a toothbrush to clean them.
- Wear braces as directed. Wear it full time if your orthodontist recommends it.
- Thoroughly rinse the braces with cold water.
- Be sure to take your braces out when you eat.
- Be sure to keep the dental retainer in your mouth or in a designated container. Placing it elsewhere may result in accidental damage or misplacement.
- When you see an orthodontist, be sure to bring your braces with you.
- Be sure to put your name and phone number on the braces, especially if they are worn in public.
- Be sure to brush your teeth after every meal and before wearing braces.
- Always use your hands before placing the retainer in your mouth. Make sure it’s in the correct position before biting down. The jaw muscles have more strength than your hands, and when they’re out of place, you can easily break your retainer by biting down.
2) What should be avoided:
Here are some things you need to avoid in order to properly maintain a dental retainer:
- Harsh chemicals: Toothpaste and water is enough to clean the retainer. You can add mild vinegar, denture tablets, or baking soda to the water. Avoid adding alcohol-based mouthwash or bleach, as they can damage your mouth and plastic braces. Do not boil the braces, as this will melt the plastic of the braces and enclose the metal braces.
- Avoid the heat: Do not place the braces in a hot area, as this may cause the braces to melt, deform, or deform. Also, do not put the retainer in hot water, as the heat can damage it.
- Keep out of your dog’s reach: I know dogs are family members, but they usually like to chew on your braces. Make sure your braces are out of the dog’s reach.
- Paper napkin: Don’t wrap your braces with a napkin during meals, as the waiter may mistake the napkin for a used napkin and accidentally throw the braces away. Keep your braces in a box to avoid this.
- Take the retainer out when you eat and brush your teeth: Remove your braces before meals so food doesn’t get caught and cause plaque to form. Carry your braces with you and keep your braces inside.
3) What you should not do:
The importance of a retainer behind braces cannot be overstated, as the retainer is designed to prevent the teeth from returning to their original position and should be worn until the gums and jawbone get used to the arrangement of the teeth. Don’t skip the final step of straightening your teeth after your orthodontic treatment is complete.
Also, there are a lot of things you shouldn’t do in order to take better care of your dental container.
- Do not eat foods that can damage the retainer, especially the fixed retainer.
- Do not store or place retainers in napkins or other materials that could be mistaken for trash and thrown away.
- Do not leave fixtures out of containers for extended periods of time. This orthodontic device can dry out and become brittle.
- Do not boil in water or clean the retainer with alcohol.
- Don’t play with braces in your mouth.
- Do not put the retainer in the dishwasher.
- Do not bite the retainer to move it into place.
- Do not leave braces within the reach of children or animals.
- Do not wear braces when eating.
- Do not brush the retainer with baking soda. Like toothpaste, it is abrasive and can leave scratches on the braces.
- Don’t use a hard-bristled toothbrush to clean them — choose a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Do not soak the retainer in mouthwash.
- Do not use bleach to clean your braces.
- Do not drink anything other than water while wearing braces.
- Do not leave the braces on your body during contact sports. Wear a mouthguard.
- Don’t swim with braces in your mouth. You may have difficulty finding it if it falls out of your mouth. Additionally, chlorinated water can damage materials.
- Don’t expect a pair of braces to last a lifetime. While proper care and maintenance can prolong their life, when they’re too damaged, you’ll want to ask your orthodontist for a new one.
If you forget to wear a dental retainer, you can wear it for a few days throughout the day to realign your teeth. You may experience pain when your teeth are rearranged. If you are unable to push your braces into place or do not fit properly, please call our office as soon as possible.
10. What shouldn’t you eat when you have a dental retainer?
If you wear a fixed retainer, you’ll want to avoid most of the same foods as wearing braces. Some of these include, but are not limited to:
- Chewing gum
- Sticky Candy
- Hard candy
- Tough, chewy foods
For foods like ice and hard candies, the consensus is not to bite them. It’s okay to leave them in your mouth and let them dissolve, but don’t try to chew them. Any food that could get caught between the teeth and the retainer or damage the retainer should be avoided.
When it comes to a removable brace, the list of foods to avoid isn’t long. As you might have guessed, you can eat anything that has a removable retainer.
Before eating or drinking, remove your braces and eat as normal. The only two rules you need to pay attention to are: keep the retainer in a safe place when eating and don’t try to eat with the removable retainer on.
11. How much do dental retainers cost?
Metal brackets range in price from $5,000 to $9,000. The average cost is about $6000. Ceramic braces are more expensive.
12. What are the alternatives to braces and retainers?
If you have issues with the position or appearance of your teeth but don’t want to install braces or retainers, you may also consider:
- Invisible alignment – suitable for small adjustments
- Tooth extraction – as a preventive measure against overcrowding
- Removable “plates” – some problems for young children
Your dentist should be able to discuss these and other options with you.
13. How long should a dental retainer be worn?
For the first three months of your orthodontic treatment, you’ll need to wear your retainers all day, which means about 22 hours a day. However, you can remove them while eating or brushing your teeth.
After the first three months, you’ll wear braces for 12 hours a day (or nightly) for the next nine months. By the end of the first year, your teeth should be stronger and less likely to come back any time soon. However, that doesn’t mean your days with braces are over!
As long as you want a beautiful, straight smile, you need to keep wearing braces! Otherwise, relapse is inevitable. The good news is that after the first year, you only need to wear it for 8 hours a day, so you only need to wear it while you sleep.
14. What should I do if the braces are broken?
When the unavoidable happens, you should make an appointment with an orthodontist as soon as possible. If you’ve had braces for less than a year, you’ll want to schedule an emergency appointment to get a new brace. Remember, the longer you wait, the longer it will take for the teeth to return to their original position.