Different Types of Retainers: Pros and Cons
Getting a retainer is a common part of orthodontic treatment.
Your orthodontist will advise you on which retainer they think is best for your situation. However, learning more about them can help you understand their importance, and as a result, make them more effective.
In this article, we will go through what retainers are exactly, the different types available and what sets them all apart.
What is a Retainer?
Retainers are a dental appliance used in the final stages of orthodontic treatment. They are designed to prevent your newly straightened teeth from moving, while also allowing the surrounding gum and jawbone to adjust to their new position.
What are Retainers For?
In the months following the removal of your braces, your teeth will try to revert back to their original position. This is known as a relapse. If used properly, a retainer can prevent this from taking place.
How Many Types of Retainers Are There?
There are two main types of retainers – removable and permanent (sometimes known as fixed or bonded). The type you will receive will depend on your treatment along with any underlying conditions you might have. In some cases, you could receive both. However, your orthodontist will prescribe the best type for your individual needs.
Removable Vs Permanent Retainer
This is a question we receive quite regularly: which is better, removable or permanent retainers? The answer to this is complicated and depends on your treatment.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Wearing a Removable Retainer?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of wearing removable retainers.
The advantages of removable retainers are:
- They can be removed at any time, freeing you up to eat more easily as well as make brushing or flossing your teeth less difficult.
- Easier to clean.
- Can be a relief following lengthy orthodontic treatments.
The disadvantages of removable retainers are:
- They can be easily misplaced or lost when taken out of your mouth, especially in public places.
- They are prone to damage if improperly maintained.
- In some cases, they can cause excess saliva production.
- Bacteria can grow and live on them.
- There is a risk of relapse should the patient fail to follow their orthodontist’s
As mentioned above, one of the biggest problems with removable retainers is that relapses can often take place. This is due to people losing their retainers and not replacing them, or not wearing them as often as instructed. By not wearing your retainer – or not enough – your teeth will try to shift back to their original position.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Wearing a Permanent Retainer?
Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of wearing permanent retainers.
The advantages of permanent retainers are:
- They are more discreet and “invisible”.
- They stay in your mouth 24/7, making them impossible to lose.
- Helps you avoid relapse as they’re continuously keeping your teeth in their desired position.
- More comfortable than removable retainers.
- Have little impact on how you speak.
The disadvantages of permanent retainers are:
- You will require a special type of floss (SuperFloss) and interdental brushes (TePe brushes) to clean in between your teeth
- They require a more thorough clean in order to avoid plaque build-up.
- Eating hard and or crunchy foods can potentially damage the wires or pop the cement loose from your teeth.
It should be noted that you can easily solve the cleaning issues with floss threaders or a water flosser. Just make sure you clean those hard-to-reach areas.
Length of Time for Wearing Retainers
Depending on your circumstances, you will either receive a removable or a permanent retainer – or even both. The length of time you must wear them for will depend on the type you receive. Just remember that your orthodontist will prescribe when and how long it needs to be so that you can achieve the optimal results.
- Removable Retainer – For most patients, you will need to wear this type of retainer for anywhere from four months up to a year. Following this time, your orthodontist may advise you to wear them for longer should any complications prevent their effectiveness.
- Permanent Retainer – Used in more severe cases, this type of treatment can last longer than removable retainers. It varies from patient to patient, and can potentially last for two years or more.
The Two Different Types of Removable Retainers
Let’s take a look at the two different types of removable retainer devices and what they involve.
Hawley retainers are a very popular type of removable retainer.
This appliance is made up of a thin metal wire that runs across the outside of your teeth. This wire is attached to an acrylic plate that is shaped to fit the roof of your mouth or along the inside of your lower teeth.
They are one of the less expensive types of retainers, and can last for several years if properly maintained. However, some patients find that they are a lot less discrete compared to their alternatives.
Another popular type is the Essix retainer. These clear, removable retainers are made from moulded plastic (almost resembling Invisalign aligners) and are formed to cover your teeth completely while sitting just above your gum line.
Patients tend to favour this type of retainer thanks to its virtually invisible design that is less noticeable than a Hawley retainer. However, they do not last as long as Hawleys as they are known to wear out or become discoloured after a few years.
Alternative to Removable: The Permanent Bonded Retainer
This type of permanent retainer stays in your mouth at all times due to the fact that it is bonded to the back of your teeth (usually your six lower front teeth). This location makes bonded retainers a lot more discrete compared to the previous devices.
Although, some patients find it difficult to floss the teeth that are bonded, but this is easily remedied by floss threaders, interdental brushes or water flossers.
In some cases, orthodontists may start you off with a bonded retainer, and then switch you over to a Hawley or Essix retainer after six months to a year.
How Do I Maintain My Removable Retainer?
Once you begin wearing a retainer, there are some things you should do to maintain it so that it can stay clean and be effective at holding your teeth in their new positions.
- Remove it before eating: By taking your retainer out before you start eating, you can prevent food and plaque building between it and your teeth.
- Continue to brush and floss daily: Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly before you put in your retainer.
- Remove it before brushing: Take it out before you clean your teeth. Your retainers and teeth must be cleaned separately.
- Clean it before storing: Wash it before putting it in its case.
- Avoid harsh chemicals: Do not use harsh, abrasive or dyed chemicals to clean your retainer. A mild antibacterial soap (not toothpaste as it can be quite abrasive) and water should suffice.
- See your dentist on a regular basis: Getting regular dental check-ups will go a long way in preventing cavities and ensuring the area around the retainer stays clean.
For more information on cleaning orthodontic appliances, check out our article on How to Clean and Care for Your Invisible Aligners.
If you want more advice about retainers or the different types available, please contact the clinic today to find out more about your options.