You have a gorgeous new smile! Your teeth are perfectly aligned. Your bite is perfect.
The next step is to keep your new stunning smile, so you can smile proudly as you walk around Westport and Norwalk! That is where retainers come into play. Retainers are the key to success after Invisalign is completed.
With our tremendous amount of experience at Westwalk Orthodontic Group, we are happy to share our thoughts about retainers. Below, we discuss why patients wear retainers after aligner treatment, the different types, what to expect, how to clean them, their importance, how to maintain them, what they look like, and more!
First, why do patients wear retainers after aligner treatment?
After any orthodontic treatment, teeth alignment needs to be maintained. Teeth that were moved during treatment have a natural tendency to move back slightly toward where they began. This tendency is called relapse. Retainers hold the teeth in their new aligned positions and drastically reduce the potential for relapse.
What type of retainers are recommended? There are two general types of retainers that we use in our Norwalk and Westport offices:
Fixed retainers are bonded to the inside of the teeth (on the tongue side) to hold them in place. They are extremely thin, which minimizes any interference when speaking.
Also, fixed retainers are not noticeable when you’re speaking with others, because they are placed on the inside surface of the teeth. Due to their numerous beneficial characteristics, we often use fixed retainers after completing treatment at Westwalk Orthodontic Group.
A lower fixed retainer is often used when a patient started with significant crowding prior to beginning treatment. Of course, the teeth are aligned and the crowding is corrected. After treatment, a fixed retainer is placed on the inside surface of the lower front six teeth, from the canine on one side to the canine on the other.
Also, a fixed retainer is commonly used when the patient has a space between his or her upper two front teeth prior to starting Invisalign. Of course, this space is closed with aligner treatment.
However, there is relapse potential for the space to open again after Invisalign is complete. So we typically recommend a fixed retainer on the inside surface to connect the two upper front teeth and keep the space closed.
Removable retainers are often called “in-and-out” retainers because the patient can take them in and out throughout the day. There are two types of removable retainers that are used most often after aligner treatment.
The first type is a clear tray that looks nearly identical to an aligner tray. This clear tray is called an Essix Retainer. In our Norwalk and Westport offices, we prefer Essix Retainers because they are extremely aesthetic. Your friends will not likely even notice you are wearing a retainer.
The second type of removable retainer is the one you see on TV, with a metal bar that crosses the upper front teeth; this type is often called a Hawley retainer. After aligner treatment, a Hawley retainer is not typically the retainer of choice and is rarely used in our Westport and Norwalk orthodontic practices.
Which type of retainer is best for you?
At Westwalk Orthodontic Group, the decision about which retainers to use for each patient is made on an individual basis. Many factors should be considered and weighed when determining the best Invisalign retainer:
- Before starting treatment, were your lower front teeth significantly crowded and rotated? If so, we may lean toward a fixed lower retainer to hold the alignment.
- Before starting treatment, did you have a space between your upper two front teeth? If so, a fixed retainer behind those two teeth may be indicated.
- Do you practice good oral hygiene? Do you floss daily? A fixed retainer requires a certain degree of diligence and responsibility on behalf of the patient. If a patient struggles with proper oral hygiene, one would lean away from a fixed retainer, because plaque may build up without sufficient daily cleaning.
In our orthodontic practice in Norwalk and Westport, we explain the options in detail and provide a recommendation about which retainer we believe would work best in your particular situation. The decision on the retainer is made together.
How do you maintain and care for a retainer?
The answer to this question depends on the type of retainer.
Maintaining a Fixed Retainer: The key to success of a fixed retainer is to keep the retainer perfectly clean. We demonstrate not only how to brush correctly with a fixed retainer, but also how to floss the area.
In our Norwalk and Westport offices, we show you how to floss under the fixed retainer easily using specific flossers, because the technique is different from regular flossing.
Maintaining a Removable Retainer: A removable retainer requires specific care and maintenance to ensure its longevity and prevent undesired odors. For cleaning, we prefer a specific towelette called Cleanse. Freshen. Go.
This towelette cleans the retainer perfectly and freshens it with a nice minty taste. Another option is a product like Retainer-Brite or Efferdent, which consist of tablets placed in water with the retainer similar to denture cleaners.
Also, patients with removable retainers need to be careful not to lose or damage it by following these simple tips:
- Never place the retainer in a napkin or paper towel, because they tend to be thrown away.
- Do not place the retainer on your plate or cafeteria tray.
- Keep retainers away from dogs (who love to chew them!).
- Always place the retainer in a case if not in your mouth.
- Always bring your retainers to orthodontic appointments for your orthodontist to check them.
- If you lose or damage a retainer, call your orthodontist immediately for repair or replacement.