Retainers: A Full Guide


Retainers and dental correction go hand in hand. Wearing retainers is the next step in aligning your teeth after braces have done their job. Braces can only handle part of the alignment process, and once you take them off, your teeth will likely fall out of alignment again. That’s where a retainer comes in. Retainers are used to stabilize the dental correction process that the braces have managed so far. The Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine found that teeth that aligned correctly with braces tended to settle out of line if left to their own devices. To deal with this problem, orthodontists developed the use of retainers that allowed teeth to settle vertically after the braces had finished their horizontal corrections.

Types of Retainers

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) mentions that there are two different types of retainers, temporary and permanent. Retainers and dental correction usually go hand in hand, and depending on the severity of the situation, your dentist will recommend one or the other. Each of the types of retainers is unique in its construction and usage. Among the different kinds of retainer available to you are:

Bonded Retainer

These are permanent retainers that don’t have a specified period for which they need to be worn. They’re made of metal wire, and while they may look uncomfortable, they are made specifically to match your mouth. The metal used in the cable is either nickel, titanium, copper, or some combination of these. Bonded retainers are also called lingual wire, or fixed retainers and were the standard as far as retainers were concerned for many years.

On the positive side, the retainer is one of the easiest ones to use. There are no set instructions for using them, you just put them into your mouth and align them properly then leave them there. Other people usually can’t see when you have them in, and they are comfortable enough to talk with them still in your mouth. They’re incredibly durable, and they will spend all their time in your mouth, making it impossible to misplace them. They are also unlikely to damage because of their constant presence within your mouth.

On the downside, they can’t be taken out, hence the reason they’re termed permanent retainers. When they’re in, it can be challenging to maintain oral hygiene and keep your teeth clean through flossing. The metal wire can be slightly invasive, and for some people, it can irritate their tongue when they first get it put in. It’s also not a completely secure method of aligning teeth since your teeth may still be able to become misaligned after all of your efforts.

Hawley Retainer

The Hawley retainer is one type of temporary retainer that was named after its inventor, Charles A. Hawley. According to the journal Nature, the Hawley retainer was introduced in 1919 as a means of creating more aesthetically pleasing retainers. They are usually constructed of acrylic or plastic with metal wire to aid the alignment process. While not as durable as bonded retainers, the Hawley retainer has a typical life of between one and twenty years.

On the positive side, the Hawley retainer is perfect for fashion-sensitive individuals, since it comes in customizable colors. The acrylic or plastic is heavily stain-resistant, meaning that it’s unlikely that there will be a reason to replace the retainers before their shelf life is up. The most significant benefit it offers is being easily removable, allowing its users to take it out before eating or cleaning their teeth. The ability to remove them also makes it a lot easier to clean the apparatus as well.

Unfortunately, the metal wires that form the Hawley retainers are noticeable at the front of teeth, making it impossible to hide the presence of the retainer. Because they are removable, there is a possibility of them being taken out and misplaced. When outside of the mouth, they are just as susceptible to being destroyed like any other object. When new patients first get their Hawley retainers, some mention that it increases the flow of their saliva, making it difficult to swallow or talk properly. Additionally, because it spends that much time in the user’s mouth, it can be rife with bacteria.

Clear Retainers

These retainers are crafted out of transparent plastic, making for the most invisible retainers that are commercially available to date. WebMD mentions that clear orthodontic aligners are better for teens and adults than kids since the retainers are developed for a tight fit. Because children’s mouths are still in the process of growing, they usually outgrow these clear retainers before too long. They’re often created out of plastic or polyurethane and typically last between half a year to a full year before they need to be changed.

Clear retainers, as mentioned above, offer a close fit to your teeth, ensuring that there’s no room for them to relapse into misalignment. They tend to be thinner and more comfortable than other retainers, making for a much more acceptable fit in everyday use. Because they’re transparent, many onlookers won’t be able to spot that you have retainers on. They don’t last as long as other retainers, but they are so easy to manufacture that multiple copies can easily be made to replace the one you’re using now. Additionally, you can take them out when you’re ready to eat or clean your teeth, making it easier to clean the mechanism as well before slipping it back into your mouth.

The quick turnover time can be a problem, however. Having to get new retainers every year is an added expense and can be a hassle to make an appointment to get done. If any significant dental work takes place on your mouth, new molds would need to be made to recast the new retainers. Because they are made out of plastic, they can be a lot easier to break or damage. Since they’re removable, they can also be misplaced. Just like the Hawley retainers, they can lead to excess saliva being produced and can have a lot of bacteria lodged on the retainer.

Proper Cleaning of Retainers

The cleaning process for retainers differs between the permanent and temporary varieties.

Temporary Retainers

The cleaning methodology here refers to both Hawley and clear retainers since they are both removable. Take care to remove the retainers while they’re still wet so that it’s easier to clean off any debris on the retainers before it hardens. You should start by brushing the retainer with lukewarm water after every meal. If you need a deeper clean, mix dish soap with the lukewarm water and use a soft toothbrush for scrubbing the retainer. Using a cotton swab allows you to get into the tight spaces and clean inside there as well. Soaking the retainer in denture cleaner might be possible, depending on the type. Consult your dentist before proceeding.

Permanent Retainers

In this case, you need to be more creative in how you clean your retainer. Grab a six-inch length of floss and use a floss threader to get it between the two lower front teeth in your mouth. Use the threader to hold one end of the floss and wrap the other end around your finger. Once you get the floss under the wire for the retainer, simply move it up and down to get all the stuff stuck there. You should have the floss going just slightly beneath the gum line. Slide the floss sideways to the next tooth you want to clean and repeat for each tooth within the retainer bracket.

Essential Points to Note for Living with a Retainer

Living with a temporary retainer is unlike anything you may have encountered before. You should make sure and take them out before eating if they’re removable. When you remove them, you should slot them into their cases because of how fragile they can be. For permanent retainers, it’s a lot easier since they can’t go anywhere. The biggest issue with them is cleaning, which should be done often to ensure proper oral hygiene. At Orthodontics by Bradford, we’ve been dealing with braces and retainers for many years. Call us for a consult today to see what we can do about getting you a great pair of retainers to go with your smile.

Brace for Straight Teeth – The Complete Guide to Living with Braces

wearing braces

Regardless of if you’re an adult or a kid, getting braces can be a scary experience. Living with braces requires adapting your lifestyle. You need to change how you clean your teeth and even what foods you can eat. As a kid, these adjustments can be challenging to come to terms with. Even so, the Wall Street Journal mentions that more and more people who seek orthodontic care do so as adults. To adapt to living with braces, you’re going to need to know what life changes need to take place. Any orthodontist in Palm Beach Gardens could tell you the basics of what to expect. However, the only way to honestly know what things will change is by living the experience. Luckily, having someone who’s been through the struggle tell you what’s coming can be a great help. So, what do you really need to know about living with braces?

Why Do I Need Braces Anyway?

Stanford University Press states that human ancestors probably had better teeth than we do today. What’s more, is that they never needed braces. If cave dwellers didn’t need braces, why do we? Well, to begin with, ancient humans never really cared about straight teeth. They never lived long enough for it to be a factor in whether they got noticed. In addition to this, medieval humans had more enormous jaws than we do now. The shrinking of the size of jaws is a natural consequence of how we became modern humans. Because our jaws are smaller, our teeth become crowded together, so we need braces to straighten them out.

How do Braces Work?

An orthodontist in Palm Beach Gardens usually has signs stuck on the office walls telling you how braces work. Healthline explains to us that braces exert constant pressure on teeth for an extended amount of time to straighten them. Your teeth spend a lot of time growing and adjusting to your jaw. The only way we can hope to rectify them is to use constant pressure to ensure that they go where we want them to. Initially, the teeth have a series of brackets attached to them. Through the brackets run wires which the orthodontist tightens. He or she then connects elastics to the device to ensure the pressure is maintained. Newer braces don’t have elastics, and the latest tech in braces doesn’t even have wires.

How Long Will These Things be In My Mouth?

It’s a strange feeling to have braces in your mouth, for sure. The only way to know how long that weird mechanism in your mouth is going to be there is to consult an orthodontist in Jensen Beach, FL. Everyone has a unique mouth. Because of this, you can’t compare one patient’s problems to any other patient’s. WebMD informs us that the amount of time you are going to be wearing braces for depends on the severity of your problem. They do go on to say that the average time for braces is about one to three years. However, even after you remove your braces, you’re going to need to wear a retainer for the first six months. After that, you’ll be using the retainer when you sleep for at least a year.

Are Braces Painful?

One of the most common complaints that an orthodontist in Jensen Beach, FL hears is that braces look so painful to wear. They really aren’t painful, but they can be pretty uncomfortable at the start. When you first put them on, there will be a bit of pain after your mouth adjusts to the device. Each time it’s tightened, the pain may return for a few hours. You can manage this pain with any over-the-counter painkiller. If you experience a lot of pain after adjusting, then you should speak to your orthodontist about it. He or she may need to change the amount of adjustment that they make.

What Foods Can I Eat While Wearing Braces?

One of the most significant changes to your lifestyle will be changing the things you eat while wearing braces. Generally, you may need to change the food you eat regularly to take into account your braces. The Australian Society of Orthodontics suggests that if you just had an adjustment, these foods are the ones you should be looking at eating for the first four to five days []:

  • Pasta/Rice
  • Pudding
  • Pancakes
  • Peas
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Ice Cream
  • Soup
  • Mashed Potatoes

Additionally, they go on to note a handful of foods that you should avoid at all costs when you have braces such as:

  • Some raw vegetables (carrots, for example)
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Gum or Caramel
  • Hard candy

While you can drink anything you want, any orthodontist in Palm Beach Gardens will tell you to avoid excessive sugary drinks.

Taking Care of your Braces

Having braces in your mouth means changing the way you approach brushing and flossing. Plaque, that nefarious cause of cavities, can lurk around the edge of braces and in between it and the teeth. Brushing after each meal with a soft toothbrush is an excellent start to keeping your teeth free from plaque. You will find that you need to replace your toothbrush a lot faster than usual. When using it around the braces, the toothbrush will get frayed, so this is normal.

Flossing also forms part of oral care. With braces, however, flossing is a much more complicated task. You’re going to have to floss between your teeth as usual. However, there’s going to be an added step where you slide the floss between the wire and the teeth. You should also be careful when doing this since too much pressure could lead to damage to the braces themselves. Even when removing the floss, you should take care to gently pull it out to avoid damaging either teeth or braces.

Can I Play Sports With Braces?

Braces don’t affect how well you can play sports. Most orthodontists will tell you that you can go ahead and play whatever game you like. However, contact sports may need some added protection. Because of the risk of spills that could damage the braces and teeth, you might need to wear special mouthguards. The mouthguard is made of hard, durable plastic and fits comfortably over the braces in your mouth. They are designed to protect both teeth and braces from the impact that might damage either.

Working Towards a Perfect Smile

You might not think your braces are doing anything. Many new users say that the only thing they feel when they get braces is the pain from the adjustment. But the pain is a clue that the braces are working. When you realign teeth into a perfect smile, you will have to deal with a little pain. But a low pain is worth having a brilliant smile that everyone is going to notice and love. If you’re considering an orthodontist in Palm Beach Gardens, Orthodontics by Bradford is always ready to help you get that smile you’ve always wanted. Check us out to book an appointment today. Let’s give you a smile that you know you’ve always had.