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Care Following Orthodontics – Retainers

When braces are finally removed, the “retention” phase begins for most individuals.  The objective of this phase is to ensure the teeth do not regress back to their previous position.  A retainer will be used to maintain the improved position of the teeth.  A retainer is a fixed or removable dental appliance which has been custom-made by the orthodontist to fit the teeth.  Retainers are generally made from transparent plastic and thin wires to optimize the comfort of the patient.

Retainers are worn for varying amounts of time, depending on the type of orthodontic treatment and the age of the patient.  Perseverance and commitment are required to make this final stage of treatment successful.  If the retainer is not worn as directed by the orthodontist, treatment can fail or take much longer than anticipated.

What types of retainer are available?

There are a variety of retainers available; each one geared towards treating a different kind of dental problem.  The orthodontist will make a retainer recommendation depending on the nature of the original diagnosis and the orthodontic treatment plan.

The following are some of the most common types of retainers:

  • Hawley retainer – The Hawley retainer consists of a metal wire on an acrylic arch.  The metal wire may be periodically adjusted by the orthodontist to ensure the teeth stay in the desired position.  The acrylic arch is designed to fit comfortably on the lingual walls or palate of the mouth.

  • Essix – The Essix retainer is the most commonly used vacuum formed retainer (VFR).  A mold is initially made of the teeth in their new alignment, and then clear PVC trays are created to fit over the arch in its entirety.  VFR’s are much cheaper than many other types of retainers and also do not affect the aesthetic appearance of the smile in the same way as the Hawley retainer.  The disadvantage of VFR’s is that they break and scratch more easily than other types of retainers.

  • Fixed retainers – A fixed retainer is somewhat similar to a lingual brace in that it is affixed to the tongue side of a few teeth.  Usually, a fixed retainer is used in cases where there has been either rapid or substantial movement of the teeth.  It usually consists of a single wire.  The inclination of the teeth to move rapidly means they are also more likely to regress back to their previous position if a fixed retainer is not placed.

What do I need to consider when using a retainer?

There are a few basic things to consider for proper use and maintenance of your retainer.

Don’t lose the appliance – Removable retainers are very easy to lose.  It is advisable to place your retainer in the case it came in while eating, drinking and brushing.  Leaving a retainer folded in a napkin at a restaurant or in a public restroom can be very costly if lost because a replacement must be created.  A brightly colored case serves as a great reminder.

Don’t drink while wearing a retainer – It is tempting to drink while wearing a retainer because of the unobtrusive nature of the device.  However, excess liquid trapped under the trays can vastly intensify acid exposure to teeth, increasing the probability of tooth decay.

Don’t eat while wearing a retainer – It can be difficult and awkward to eat while wearing a removable retainer and it can also damage the device.  Food can get trapped around a Hawley retainer wire or underneath the palate, causing bad breath.  When worn on the upper and lower arches simultaneously, VFR retainers do not allow the teeth to meet.  This means that chewing is almost impossible.

Clean the retainer properly – Removable retainers can become breeding grounds for calculus and bacteria.  It is essential to clean the inside and outside thoroughly as often as possible.  Hawley retainers can be cleaned with a toothbrush.  Because harsh bristles can damage the PVC surface of a VFR, denture cleaner or a specialized retainer cleaner is recommended for this type of device.

Wear the retainer as directed – This phase of treatment is critical. The hard work has been done, the braces are off and now it is tempting not to wear the retainer as often as the orthodontist recommends.  Retainers are needed to give the muscles, tissues and bones time to stabilize the teeth in their new alignment.  Failure to wear the retainer as directed can have regrettable consequences, such as teeth returning to their original position, added expense and lost time.

If you have any questions or concerns about retainers, please contact our office.

Testimonials

I can't say enough good things about Dr. Southworth and his entire staff! My two daughters needed a LOT of dental re-alignment, including headgear and recommendations for extractions and periodontal work. Dr. Southworth was one hundred percent up-front, realistic and supportive through all six years of work! He has such a caring approach with his patients, always putting them at ease with a genuine spirit, and patient, understandable explanations of all treatments and plans. I highly recommend Dr. Southworth and his caring staff for any orthodontic needs.

Karen O.

Search no further, you are fortunate to have found an orthodontist who will give it to you straight( pun intended).
Whatever your needs or goals for your child, Dr. Southworth can assist you in understanding all of your options- including the option to not get braces! He is not a salesperson but an extremely well educated and experienced Orthodontist who will offer you and your child a caring and well supported consultation. His inclusion of your child in this process is perfection.
If you do proceed with braces, a kind and supportive team will make the entire process a walk in the park. I had two children who had very different needs. Both had incredible outcomes.
In terms of value, his pricing cannot be beat. There is a well detailed, comprehensive arrangement laid out before services even begin- this means NO SURPRISES! Payment was easy with an extremely reasonable payment plan.
Having his office so convenient is vital for ongoing care and his team makes it incredibly easy to schedule, interface with your regular dentist, and manage all the intricacies of any insurance you may have. They are a pleasure to deal with and I can honestly say after dealing with them for many years, every interaction was a joy.
Choosing the right fit for your orthodontist is critical and we are so blessed to have Dr. Southworth in our area. Some of my friends were not as fortunate and in the end paid more in time, money and stress across the board.
If you are able to utilize his services, you will be more than pleased with both the process and the outcome!

Mary L., Sterling

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