What to Know Before You Get Retainers

What to Know

Retainers are specific orthodontic devices that assist in straightening teeth and one of many orthodontic treatment options. Retainers often get used in conjunction with braces; however, they are usually prescribed during the retention phase and reinforce the work done by traditional braces or Invisalign®.

How to Choose the Correct Retainers For Teeth

Retainers have the most important job after your braces get removed: they hold your teeth in place and prevent them from defaulting to their original positions. Your gums and the fibrous ligaments that hold your teeth become loose while wearing braces; yet, after the braces get removed, the gums take time to tighten and offer little to no resistance if your teeth start reverting to their old positions.

Many patients ask if they can eventually stop wearing their retainers. The answer is, of course, case-specific. The recommended time for wearing retainers after braces differs from patient to patient, depending on their type of treatment. Wearing full-time retainers ensures that your teeth will settle into their new positions. Depending on the severity of your case, we will allow you to stop wearing your retainers during the day but suggest you continue wearing it overnight.

Retainers for teeth

The Different Types of Retainers

When getting retainers prescribed, it is essential to note that there are two main types of retainers:


Fixed Retainers

The fixed type of retainer is usually a thin wire worn across the back of the lower or upper front teeth, which is bonded in place with a cement-like that is applied on the brackets of braces. Because this type of wire stretches across several teeth, a floss threader or similar cleaning device must be used to access the interproximal spaces between the teeth, which is like how people with braces must floss. 

Even though this type of retainer takes a little more work to keep clean, it has the best outcome because the bonded wire will hold the newly straightened teeth in perfect formation 24/7 (only the lower anterior teeth)


Removable Retainers

The Hawley type of retainer is usually a combination of a wire going across the front of the lower or upper front teeth held in place with a combination of acrylic material and hooks (or clasps) that insert in and around the back teeth to hold the retainer in place.

Since it is removable, this type of retainer makes it easier to clean your teeth, but the patient must remember to wear it daily. Initially, your orthodontist or dentist will want you to wear it all day and all night for at least the first year; if no movement is detected, you may be instructed to wear the retainer only at night or for a few hours in the daytime.

How To Maintain Your Retainers

To ensure proper use and maintenance of your retainers, there are a few basic protocols to follow:

Wear your retainers as instructed – This retention phase of your orthodontic treatment is critical. The challenging portion of the work is complete, and your braces have come off; during this phase, it is tempting to forgo wearing your retainers as often as your orthodontist suggests. Retainers are necessary and give your muscles, bones and tissue time to stabilise your teeth in their new alignment. When you avoid using your retainers, this will have regrettable consequences - the most prevalent of which is that your teeth return to their old positions, costing you both time and money.

Do not lose your retainers – Removable retainers are easily misplaced or lost, so we advise that you keep them in your retainers case when you remove them to eat, drink, or perform your daily oral care routines. If lost,a set of retainers is costly to replace. A brightly coloured case often serves as the ideal reminder.

Do not drink while wearing your retainers – While it is tempting to drink when wearing retainers, we strongly advise against doing so. Due to the retainers’ positioning, excess liquid trapped under the retainers tray intensifies acid exposure to your teeth and increases the likeliness of tooth decay.

Do not eat while wearing your retainers – We understand the difficulty and awkwardness of wearing removable retainers. Food debris gets trapped around the wire of a Hawley trainer, which causes bad breath. Eating with your retainers also damages the device, so it is best to avoid doing so altogether.

Clean your retainers properly – Removable retainers are a breeding ground for calculus and harmful bacteria. It is essential to put a proper oral care routine in place, and regularly clean your retainers as a part of this process.

How to maintain your retainers

Do Kids and Adults Need Retainers After Braces?

The answer is usually always yes; nearly every patient will need to wear retainers for a period after their braces get removed.

Retainers function as the final phase of your orthodontic treatment and focus on retaining your new smile, ensuring that your teeth cannot default back into their original positions over time or from typical maturational changes. A patient's bottom teeth are particularly susceptible to returning to their old places, so many orthodontists recommend permanent retainers as an insurance policy that protects your new smile.

Retainers after braces , Orthodontics and Orthodontic treatment, dental referrals

Can Retainers to Straighten Teeth Without Braces?

Most people want straight teeth and if your teeth aren't currently aligned as well as you'd like them to be, braces are an option.

There are other ways to achieve alignment. This includes clear aligners. Clear aligners are removable alternatives to traditional braces. When you get custom-made, clear plastic aligners. The entire treatment of aligners could take up to 36 months or longer, depending on the amount of alignment you need.

Pros and Cons

Pros of Fixed Retainers

  • A fixed retainer is on your teeth permanently, 24/7. This ensures that there is no shifting of your front teeth after orthodontic treatment is complete.
  • A fixed retainer cannot be taken out unless done so by an orthodontist.
  • A fixed retainer is clear and cosmetically pleasing. It is glued on the back of the teeth, so no one will see it when you talk or smile!

Cons of Fixed Retainers

  • Fixed retainers are difficult to keep clean, and sometimes food can get stuck in them, causing a buildup of unnecessary dirt if not cleaned properly.
  • Fixed retainers require special flossing tools such as floss threaders or water flossers.
  • You always have to be aware when eating hard or crunchy foods as they could cause your wires to break.

Pros of Removable Retainers

  • A removable retainer allows you to brush and floss as usual without having to use any special tools to keep your teeth clean aside from your toothbrush.
  • You can customise your removable retainers with a cool design or colour!
  • Removable retainers will cover all of your teeth, ensuring none of your teeth moves after the orthodontic treatment is complete.

Cons of Removable Retainers

  • If they are not kept in a safe environment, you may stand a chance of losing your removable retainers when they are taken out of your mouth.
  • Wearing removable retainers comes with great responsibility – ensure that you are always compliant with the instructions given to you by your orthodontist.
  • Your removable retainers will need to be replaced as they will eventually wear down.

The obvious disadvantage of a removable retainer after braces is the fact that it can be lost or damaged and can even melt or change shape if it is exposed to high heat. That’s why we recommend double retention. Which is a mix of fixed retention in at least one of the arches together with a removable retainer to ensure that your teeth are protected against unwanted movements.

Are there any Differences Between Retainers and Invisalign?

Retainers are specific orthodontic devices that assist in keeping your teeth where they are. It is one of many orthodontic treatment options. Getting retainers are usually a lifelong commitment, and you’ll wear the same set of retainers until they wear out.

Invisalign aligners, are custom-made to fit your teeth just like retainers. However, instead of being made to fit your teeth perfectly, they are designed to apply pressure to your teeth and gently move them until they reach the desired position.

Get the smile you’ve always wanted with HIPP Orthodontics today.

[FAQ's] Frequently Asked Questions

Dr Jacqueline Cupido is the first Specialist Orthodontist to complete her degree Cum Laude in 20 years and is well known and respected in the industry. This specialist degree takes 17 years to master, while normal dentistry degrees take 6 years to complete.

There are only a handful of specialist orthodontists in the Western Cape. Here are a few things you may want to ask, along with some helpful information about patients' and families' most frequent questions.

Like any part of the human body, the ageing process is inevitable. It also impacts your teeth. You need to wear your retainers to minimise these changes as much as possible. Retainers also help stabilise your teeth in their new position; it is essential to follow the above instructions carefully.

Removable Retainers -
The Hawley type of retainer is usually a combination of a wire going across the front of the lower or upper front teeth held in place with a combination of acrylic material and hooks (or clasps) that insert in and around the back teeth to hold the retainer in place.

Fixed Retainers-
The fixed type of retainer is usually a thin wire worn across the back of the lower or upper front teeth, which is bonded in place with a cement like that applied on the brackets of braces.

We will assess your treatment plan on a case-by-case basis; however, you should wear your retainer at all times unless you are eating, drinking, or performing your daily oral care routine. When you have your follow-up appointment, we will assess and instruct you on whether that routine will change and if you can progress to only wearing your retainer at night.

Adjusting to your retainer is most challenging in the first three to six months because you should be wearing your retainer for at least 22 hours a day, if not more. You should only remove your retainer when eating, drinking, or performing your daily oral care routines. We will continue monitoring your progress before confirming if you can only wear them at night.

Your retainers should be worn full-time except for eating and drinking for the first 2 weeks after fitting. The retainers should then be worn 10 hours a day, most patients wear them at night. Please seat your retainer by pressing with your fingers. DO NOT bite into position as this will crack/break your retainer.

Schedule an appointment as soon as possible as we may need to either repair or remake it.

Simply call our practice at 021 948 6580 or schedule an appointment! Or by email reception@hipporthodontics.co.za. We will be happy to schedule your next appointment at your convenience. If you are a new patient or have been referred to our practice, please let us know and we will provide you with all the information you may need.