Orthodontic Retention

You've worked hard for your beautiful smile; keep it that way!

You do not need to use retainers for life.  You only need to use them for as long as you want your teeth to stay straight!

All kidding aside, it is important to know that without retention, teeth move.  Even people with naturally straight teeth without orthodontic treatment in their teens often have some degree of misalignment as they age. You'll need to use a retainer to preserve your results to keep your smile looking its best.

Types of Retainers

Retainers are custom-made and can be removable or fixed.

  • Traditional removable retainers typically include a metal wire that surrounds the front teeth and is attached to an acrylic arch that sits in the roof of the mouth. The metal wires can be adjusted to finish treatment and continue minor movement of the front teeth as needed.
  • Aligner-style retainers, or Essix retainers, look similar to clear aligners and offer a more aesthetic alternative to wire retainers. This clear retainer may fit over the entire arch of your teeth, or only from canine to canine (clip-on retainer). It is produced from a mold of your newly aligned teeth.  This is the type of retainer we always use immediately following the end of active treatment.
  • Fixed retainers consist of wires bonded behind the bottom or top teeth.
  • We almost always start with invisible retainers at the end of active treatment. They are used full time with removal only for brushing or eating.  These are followed in about 4 months later with long term retainers that are used only at night.  The night retainers vary in type depending on the nature of the original problems and on patient preference.

Pros and Cons

  • Removable retainers can be taken out for eating and hygiene routines.
  • Removable retainers can get lost easily, so remember to keep yours in the case whenever you remove it to eat or brush.  Dogs love to eat retainers making them expensive chew toys!
  • A fixed retainer is great if you don't want to keep track of it, or if you don't want to worry about how many hours per day it must be worn.  Fixed retainers are not always possible in the upper teeth for young patients due to the necessary proximity to the gum tissues.
  • Teeth with fixed retainers require a little extra attention to remove tartar below the wire and between the teeth.  This job has become much faster and easier with the advent of G.U.M. brand Soft-Picks.
American Association of Orthodontists American Board of Orthodontics The Pacific Coast society of Orthodontists invisalign