Differences in Orthodontic Retainers

After your orthodontic treatment has been completed, retention is necessary. There are several types of retainers available to you, however your orthodontist will recommend what they feel best suits your orthodontic needs.  Retainers should be worn as directed, if you stop wearing them, your teeth will shift.  Once your teeth are in their final position, it takes approximately a year for the periodontal ligaments to solidify the teeth in their new positions.  Orthodontic relapse can be frustrating and costly too, so avoid the frustration and wear your retainers.  

The Hawley retainer, is made of clear plastic or acrylic and a bendable wire.  These retainers have been used for years, and are probably the most widely noted.  They come in a variety of color options.  Hawley retainers are the only adjustable retainers, which means they can be tightened or tweaked if needed. You place and remove the retainers daily for use and cleaning.  These retainers are extremely durable, easy to clean and last for many years. However these are the most noticeable retainers due to the bendable wires that lie across the front of the maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth.  

The Essix retainer is a clear plastic retainer which closely resembles an aligner (Invisalign).  These are less noticeable than the Hawley retainer, however when both maxillary and mandibular retainers are in place, the teeth won’t touch in a natural way. These have a much shorter life span and need to be replaced every 1-2 years.  They are also removable, which means they are often misplaced and thrown away accidentally.  These are increasingly popular and very esthetic, but can produce a lisp.

Finally there is a fixed lingual retainer, or bar.  This retainer is not removable, it is bonded or glued to the lingual (tongue side) of the maxillary and mandibular anterior (front) teeth.  While very esthetically pleasing, they can create difficulty when flossing. The floss must be threaded under the retainer, taking more time and patience than regular flossing. It may also be bothersome to the tongue and will take time to adjust, however it is bonded so you don’t have to bother with remembering to wear it and it won’t ever get lost.

Discuss the different options and recommendations with your orthodontist prior to removal of your braces. Choose a retainer that will best suit your lifestyle and needs.  Most importantly, wear your retainer and protect your beautiful smile for a lifetime.