What are Retainers?

What are Retainers?

Retainers are appliances that maintain and hold the corrected alignment of the teeth after orthodontic treatment. It will also help to keep the improvement of the bite after active orthodontic treatment.

Retainers are passive and not designed to move the teeth, only to hold them in place.

Even after orthodontic treatment, your teeth can lose their alignment throughout growth and even into adulthood. For example, most people notice increasing irregularity of their lower front teeth with age. Retainers are designed to prevent such undesirable movement of teeth.

Why are Retainers needed?

retainers
If teeth are not stabilized after any orthodontic treatment then they can shift out of position and alignment very quickly. This is especially true when considering growing children, as there is still a certain amount of development that occurs after the teenage years. However, relapse of treatment can also occur in adults too.

Retainers help teeth to remain in the ideal and corrected position, so that the jawbone and gum surrounding the teeth have an opportunity to adapt to the treatment changes. This helps the teeth to “solidify” in the required alignment.

If no retainers are worn then there could be a relative degree of relapse with the return of any irregularity of the teeth. This will mean that further treatment will become necessary. It is important to note that the additional treatment to address the relapse may be more complex and difficult.

Wearing retainers exactly as instructed is the best guarantee of keeping your teeth straight for a lifetime.

What kinds of retainers are there?

There are two main categories of retainers:

Your Specialist Orthodontist will advise you as to the appropriate Retainer treatment that is the most suitable for you. You may be requested to wear both fixed and removable retainers depending on the extent of retention required.

How much and for how long do I need to wear my retainers?

Fixed (Bonded) Retainers are fitted as soon as the orthodontic treatment has been completed.

If you have been advised to also wear Removable Retainers, your orthodontist will inform you as to the exact nature of how to wear them according to your specific situation.

The general recommendation for retainers is to wear them every night for first year; thereafter, you can phase down to wearing them every other night for the next year. After the first two years, you can reduce the wear further to 1-2 nights a week.

Removable Retainers

Will they hurt?

When removable retainers are first fitted you may experience minor discomfort for the first 2-3 days. It is normal for them to feel tight and secure. But over time they will gradually feel more comfortable.

Sometimes you may find that parts of the retainer may rub on your teeth, gums or softer tissues like cheeks or tongue. You may also notice that your speech is a little different at first but this will return back to normal after awhile. You may notice a little increase in the saliva flow. These things are all quite normal to experience and most people get used to them.

If you find that you’ve left your retainers out for too long then you may find them a little uncomfortable at the start when you put them back in, but they soon return back to feeling normal as you start wearing them.

On occasion you might find that the retainers rub against your soft tissues like cheek and tongue and you may experience some discomfort. We can supply you with orthodontic wax. You simply tear off a small piece and roll it into a pea-sized ball. Then you gently mould it over the devise in your mouth on the part that is causing trouble. The wax acts a cushion and barrier keeping the retainer components away from your cheek or tongue.

If you continue to have discomfort then it might be better to call the practice so that we can arrange an emergency appointment to adjust your retainer and make it more comfortable. It would not be advisable to stop wearing your retainers and wait until your next appointment. This is because your teeth may relapse and there will be a return in irregularity of your teeth. Hence, it would be better to get in touch with the practice if you have an ongoing problem.

What happens if I don’t wear my retainers as advised?

If retainers are not worn as advised, then there is always a considerable risk of relapse of treatment. This means that to some extent the original irregularity of your teeth is likely to return. However, you can also end up with a more complex situation that may be difficult to correct. It is not good for the support structures of teeth to keep repeating treatment. The best way to ensure success of treatment and to prevent any relapse is to wear the retainers exactly as instructed.

How do I take care of my removable retainers?

If retainers are left lying around outside their containers or are wrapped in tissue paper/napkin, you can easily by accident throw them away or they can get mislaid. For this reason, if retainers are not being worn always store them carefully in their container or box. We also do not advise that you keep them loose in your pocket or bag. This will avoid any damage or distortion to them.

Distorted or damaged retainers will not perform the treatment optimally and may cause chronic damage to your teeth or gums.

With respect to cleaning your retainers, we recommend that you clean them with your regular toothbrush and toothpaste. You can do this whenever you brush and clean your own teeth. You can also purchase retainers cleaning tablets from a chemist if you want to take an extra measure. Always use cold or lukewarm water for cleaning retainers. Hot water can damage them irreversibly. Do not use household chemicals for cleaning your retainers.

When you receive your retainers at the practice, your Specialist Orthodontist will advise you as how best to look after your retainers. They will also demonstrate instructions on how to insert them in your mouth and remove the retainers correctly.

How long do I need to wear my retainers?

Your orthodontist will advise you as to your specific duration of wear depending upon your unique case. However, the general recommendation for retainers is to wear them every night for first year; thereafter, you can phase down to wearing them every other night for the next year. After the first two years, you can reduce the wear further to 1-2 nights a week.

You can then keep wearing the retainers in this manner for as long as possible.
This is called “Indefinite Retention”.

Teeth do have a tendency to move very slowly over a lifetime causing subtle irregularities. This is most noticeable in the lower front incisors. Wearing your retainers indefinitely in this manner can help your teeth to look good and straight throughout your lifetime.

Do I have to wear my retainers all the time?

We recommend that you wear your retainers as instructed by our orthodontist.

You do not need to wear them in the day (although there will be no harm) but you should definitely wear them every night for the first year and then every other night for the second year.

If you do not wear the retainers or take care of them properly (whether loss, damage or distortion) as advised there will be an increased risk of failure of treatment. The teeth will relapse and you will begin to see irregularity in the alignment of your teeth.

If you leave the retainers out for too long, the subsequent corrective treatment may be more complex and difficult.

Should I brush my teeth as normal?

Yes you should brush your teeth as normal twice a day. However when you have retainers you will need to take them out to eat and clean them and your teeth.

Our hygienists will help you to establish a good home regime that you can follow easily and which will help you take care of both your teeth and the retainer.

You can also get additional help in keeping your mouth clean by using a fluoride mouthwash or fluoride gel toothpaste.

Do I still need to see my regular dentist?

Yes you should always continue seeing your regular general dental practitioner on a routine basis (usually every 6 months). This should happen no matter which specialist orthodontist you see.

The reason is that a specialist will mostly focus on their expert field of dentistry and its associated treatments. A general dental practitioner focuses on the general health and foundation of your teeth working in collaboration with any specialist. A good analogy is that they are like “project managers” for your mouth.

Hence, it is important that your whole mouth is taken care of by a general dental practitioner. If you are considering this for your child and you do not have your own dentist, then we can arrange for you to have an examination with our Specialist Paediatric Dentist. Alternatively, we would be happy to recommend a dentist to look after you.

What should I do if my retainers are damaged or lost?

If your retainers are damaged, distorted or lost, you should contact the practice immediately for emergency appointment or for our specialist to provide you will the appropriate advice.

You should not wait for next appointment as this may be too long and you may experience some interim unwanted tooth movement and/or bite changes.

On occasion we may be able to make you another retainer in your absence but this depends upon the individual case.

A charge will be made for replacing un-repairable or badly damaged retainers. However, we do repair retainers at no cost to you should you need, for up to 12 months following active treatment. After that a fee will be charged for a repair or a replacement of your retainer.

If you are not careful and the retainer becomes damaged repeatedly or is lost repeatedly, it can have a negative effect on your dentition. You may find that your bite changes and you may experience partial relapse of your treatment. This can have a long-term detrimental effect on your teeth.

It is best to consider your retainers as an important aspect of the treatment and to take care of them as advised.

Fixed/Bonded Retainers

Is a fixed retainer uncomfortable?

The process of having a fixed retainer fitted is not uncomfortable.

On the first day the retainer may feel a little strange on the tongue. This is temporary and you will easily get used to it after a few days.

Also, some people find that their speech may be subtly different but this too returns to normal after a few days.

How do I look after my fixed retainer?

The main potential issue with having a fixed retainer is if there is inadequate cleaning. If plaque and food debris were allowed to accumulate around the retainer and in between the teeth it is fitted on, then this could cause damage to the enamel of the teeth and inflammation of the gums. Subsequently, this could then lead to more serious issues such as gum disease and tooth decay.
Hence, it is critical that you clean the teeth around the retainer correctly and efficiently. One popular dental aid is a special type of floss called Superfloss which is very good at interdental cleaning. One aid that should not be used is a toothpick as it can cause the retainer to come off if too much pressure is applied.
We also recommend regular visits with a dental hygienist who can help you to establish a good home oral hygiene regime. The hygienist can also check to see how efficient the cleaning is and whether there is any deterioration of your gum health. It is a great way to ensure that you continue to have healthy teeth and gums.

What happens if my fixed retainer is removed?

We do not advise this to happen. If you were to have your retainer removed then you may experience unwanted tooth movement with possible bite changes.

Retainers help to keep the correct alignment of the treatment secure and stable. Without them the treatment would relapse to varying degrees.

If your retainers are damaged, distorted or they come off, you should contact the practice immediately for emergency appointment or for our specialist to provide you will the appropriate advice.

It is best to consider your retainers as an important aspect of the treatment and to take care of them as advised.

How long do I have to keep my fixed retainer on?

You can keep wearing your fixed retainers for as long as possible.
This is called “Indefinite Retention”.

Teeth do have a tendency to move very slowly over a lifetime causing subtle irregularities. This is most noticeable in the lower front incisors. Wearing your retainers indefinitely can help your teeth to look good and straight throughout your lifetime.

Do I still need to see my regular dentist?

Yes you should always continue seeing your regular general dental practitioner on a routine basis (usually every 6 months). This should happen no matter which specialist orthodontist you see.

This is because a specialist will mostly focus on their expert field of dentistry and its associated treatments. A general dental practitioner focuses on the general health and foundation of your teeth working in collaboration with any specialist. A good analogy is that they are like “project managers” for your mouth.

Hence, it is important that your whole mouth is taken care of by a general dental practitioner. If you are considering this for your child and you do not have your own dentist, then we can arrange for you to have an examination with our Specialist Paediatric Dentist. Alternatively, we would be happy to recommend a dentist to look after you.

Should I brush my teeth as normal?

Yes you should brush your teeth as normal twice a day. However when you have retainers you will need to use other dental aids to help you clean in between the retainer wire and the teeth such as interdental brushes or Super-Floss.

Our hygienists will help you to establish a good home regime that you can follow easily and which will help you take care of both your teeth and the retainer.

You can also get additional help in keeping your mouth clean by using fluoride mouthwash or fluoride gel toothpaste.

What should I do if my fixed retainer is damaged or it comes off?

If your retainers are damaged, distorted or they come off, you should contact the practice immediately for emergency appointment or for our specialist to provide you will the appropriate advice.

You should not wait for next appointment as this may be too long and you may experience some interim unwanted tooth movement and/or bite changes.

A charge will be made for any repairs or badly damaged retainers. However, we do repair retainers at no cost to you should you need, for up to 12 months following active treatment. After that a fee will be applied for a repair of your retainer.

If you are not careful and the retainer becomes damaged repeatedly, it can have a negative effect on your dentition. You may find that your bite changes and you may experience partial relapse of your treatment. This can have a long-term detrimental effect on your teeth.

It is best to consider your retainers as an important aspect of the treatment and to take care of them as advised.