Congratulations! Your orthodontic treatment is complete. Your dental braces were removed, and now you need to maintain your new beautiful smile and perfect bite.
Of course, retainers are needed to prevent any undesirable tooth movement. There are two types of orthodontic retainers: (a) fixed retainers and (b) removable retainers. Removable retainers are also called “in-and-out” retainers, because the patient takes them in and out.
In contrast, fixed retainers are bonded to the back surface of your teeth, to hold them perfectly in place.
Can your friends see the fixed retainer when you are smiling or speaking?
Basically, no. The retainer is barely noticeable because it is bonded to the inside surface of your teeth.
Does a fixed retainer hurt?
No. Placing a fixed retainer involves essentially the same steps as placing braces, which is a simple process and completely pain-free. Furthermore, a fixed retainer is just holding your orthodontic correction that has already been completed, so no discomfort should be expected.
How do you floss with a fixed retainer?
At Westwalk Orthodontic Group in Norwalk and Westport, we demonstrate how to floss with a fixed retainer. We show you a couple easy techniques to allow you to choose which one is your favorite.
What happens if a fixed retainer breaks or comes off?
Unfortunately, fixed retainers can dislodge from the surface of a tooth. You may bite on a hard food like a nut, and break the bonding material between the retainer and the tooth surface. In this situation, you should call your orthodontist for the bonding to be repaired. The orthodontist will remove any residual bonding material and re-bond the fixed retainer to the tooth.
In some circumstances, the entire fixed retainer can dislodge from the back surface of the teeth. Again, you should see your orthodontist immediately to prevent any undesirable tooth movement.
In this situation, the repair involves two steps. First, the remaining dental adhesive needs to be removed from the back side of the teeth. Then the fixed retainer is replaced.
When is a fixed retainer recommended?
In our office, we use a wide variety of retainers, and we recommend particular retainers based on each individual’s bite relationship and dental alignment prior to the start of orthodontic treatment.
There are two situations where we typically recommend a fixed retainer. The first would be a space between the upper two front teeth prior to starting orthodontic treatment. Of course we will close the space with braces or Invisalign, but we want the space to stay obviously closed.
This type of space has a high relapse potential with a tendency to open again after treatment. In this situation, we prefer to use a fixed retainer on the inside of just the two upper front teeth. The fixed retainer is not noticeable, since it’s placed on the side of the teeth facing the roof of the mouth. Furthermore, the fixed retainer is extremely thin, so speech is not affected.
The second indication for a fixed retainer would be a significant amount of crowding in the lower front teeth prior to starting orthodontic treatment. Of course, we align all the teeth with braces or Invisalign to give you a gorgeous smile.
Next, we want the alignment to remain ideal. However, rotations and crowding of lower front teeth have a high potential for relapse. In this situation, we use a fixed retainer placed on the inside surface of the teeth from the lower right canine to the lower left canine.
The retainer consists of a very thin material on the inside surface of your teeth, so your tongue will barely notice it. Also, the fixed retainer is placed on the inside surface, which makes it essentially unnoticeable.
In your office, how long do you watch the patient in this retainer phase?
At Westwalk, we monitor our patients for two years after orthodontic treatment (braces or Invisalign) is completed. Appointments are less frequent during this phase, but the time period is still important to ensure the stability of the bite and tooth alignment.
For teenagers, we evaluate the eruption of wisdom teeth during this two-year span after braces and recommend the best course of action.