When you get your braces off at Carter & Higgins Orthodontics, we will make a special retainer designed for your mouth. There are 3 different retainer styles we use: clear, acrylic and metal, and fixed (the one attached to the back of the teeth).
Why wear a retainer? Unfortunately, teeth have great memories and want to move right back to where they started. We recommend home wear for our patients for the first 6 months (all night long, and when you are at home after school or work). This has been effective for our patients, and also reduces the chances of retainers getting lost. Eventually, patients can work into nighttime wear only.
Types of retainers
A fixed retainer is a thin wire that is bonded on the back of the upper or lower front teeth. A floss threader must be used to keep the spaces between the teeth clean (your dentist will be very happy that you keep it flossed). These retainers take some extra work, and we still recommend wearing your clear retainer over the top, since the wire is not glued to every tooth.
Removable retainers are usually a combination of wire going across the front teeth with a piece of acrylic in the roof of the mouth with hooks and clasps that insert around the teeth to hold the retainer in place. This type of retainer is called a Hawley it can also move teeth a little if they are starting to shift.
Another removable retainer is an invisible clear piece of plastic, which some patients prefer over the metal Hawley. The disadvantage to these is that they can be removed, lost, or damaged. Everyone has things they would rather spend money on instead of a replacement retainer!
When you are making your cleaning visits to the dentist, the hygienist will be able to clean around the fixed retainer, but at home you will need to continue to brush and floss around your fixed retainer every day. For removable retainers you should never use toothpaste to clean them as it is too abrasive. Soaking them in denture cleaner or white vinegar for 20-30 minutes everyday will keep the retainer in tip top shape. You can also use your toothbrush with dish soap to freshen them up.
For more tips on caring for your retainer, check out our blog Retainer Care and Use.