Mother and son.

Once you get finally get your braces off, you’ll no longer have those bands and brackets, and you’ll be able to look at your brand new, transformed smile!  You’ve made it through the tough part, but now it’s time to make sure that you can keep that smile for the rest of your life.  Retention is the critical stage after you’re out of your braces, where your orthodontist will prescribe you a retainer that’s custom-made for you to wear and keep your new smile in place.

Why Do I Need To Wear A Retainer?

Simply put, once you get your braces off, your teeth aren’t perfectly set into your jaw yet, meaning that they will want to start to move back to the position that they were in before you had braces.  Your jaw will need at least several months for it to adjust to your teeth’s new, ideal position so it won’t pull them back to being crooked. During the time that your jawbone is adjusting, your retainer will make sure that your teeth stay in place so you can keep enjoying that perfect, healthy smile.  

Three Types of Retainers

Types of orthodontic retainers.

There are three basic types of retainers available today; each works best in particular situations.  When you’re getting fitted for your retainer, your orthodontist will talk to you about what type of retainer will be best for you. 

Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers consist of a thin piece of acrylic that is molded to a tongue-like shape that is designed to fit comfortably in your mouth.  The other key element is the wire, which will hold your teeth in their new position and prevent them from moving.  

Clear Plastic Retainers

This type of retainer is very similar to the clear trays that are used with the Invisalign system.  Made from a transparent plastic material, the retainer is practically invisible while you’re wearing it, making it a very popular option.  It will be custom fitted to your teeth, and just slides right on over your teeth for a comfortable fit.  This type of retainer is also removable, but tend to be less durable than the Hawley retainer, meaning you need to take extra care to make sure it stays out of harms way to prevent damage.

Fixed Bonded Retainers

Fixed retainers are unique in the fact that they are fixed in place (like the name implies) behind your teeth.  While they aren’t removable, this type of retainer is practically invisible as well, and is very durable.  How it works is that a wire that is bonded to the backside of your teeth, which will help keep your teeth in place.  This type is also recommended for those with a high risk of their teeth moving back into position, such as kids that may refuse to wear their retainer.  

How Long Will I Wear My Retainer?

Once you get your braces off, at first you will need to wear your retainer every day for the entire day, and only removing it for when you eat and if you need to clean it.  While wearing it 24/7 may sound like a chore, your retainer should be very comfortable once you’ve adjusted to wearing it, especially compared to your braces.  After that phase, you can start wearing your retainer just at night.  Just keep up your regular visits to our office, so we can keep track of your how your teeth and jaw are adjusting.

How Do I Clean My Retainer?

How to Clean Removable Retainers

Even though your smile looks different, it’s still your same teeth, which means that they’re still just as vulnerable to decay and damage as they’ve always been. Also, just like you had to take a little bit of extra care to make sure your teeth stay clean when you had your braces, you’ll also need to make sure you keep your retainer clean too. Food particles and bacteria can easily build up in your retainer if not cared for properly, so below are some tips on how to do just that.       

Cleaning A Hawley Or clear retainer 

Since Hawley and clear retainers are both removable, cleaning them is quick and easy!  For Hawley retainers, you can simply take it out and give it a gentle brushing with your toothbrush and toothpaste when you’re brushing your teeth normally.  

Clear retainers are a little bit different, since using a toothbrush can risk scratching the plastic that it’s made of. All you’ll need is some denture cleaning tablets and a glass of water.  Drop one of the tablets in the water and it’ll create a cleaning solution that will kill any bacteria.  Just put your retainer in there for a few minutes, take it out and rinse it off thoroughly before you put it back in.

Cleaning a Fixed Retainer

For fixed retainers, keeping them clean just requires that you be thorough with your normal brushing and flossing. In order to get around your retainer when you’re flossing, we recommend that you use a floss threader.  If you don’t have one already from when you had your braces, just ask your orthodontist.  

Some Do’s & Don’ts with Retainers

If you do have a removable retainer, make sure that you carry around your retainer case with you and actually use it.  Too often retainers are lost after they were left folded up in a napkin, accidentally thrown away, or damaged because it was left out.  

Also, don’t expose your retainer to extreme heat, whether it’s just washing it with very hot water or leave it somewhere where it can get hot, such as inside a hot car or in your pockets for something that can go through the dryer. The heat will warp the retainer, either making it unusable or be very uncomfortable.

Contact Your Local WGM Office

Getting your braces off is an exciting time, but make sure you ask your orthodontist about any questions you may have about your retainer like how to keep it clean or what to do if it gets damaged, You can also just contact any of our 14 local offices, and the entire White, Greer & Maggard Orthodontics staff will be more than happy to help you get the information you need.  We are excited to help you keep your smile looking and feeling healthy and bright.  


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Orthodontic Retainers - Dear Doctor Magazine

The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers Decades ago, orthodontists used to think that once teeth were moved into the “right” positions, they would stay there forever. Research over the past thirty years has shown that this is not true — there is no “right” position that can assure a permanent, unchanging result. The only way to be sure the alignment of your teeth and your bite remains stable after orthodontic treatment is to wear retainers as needed and as directed by your orthodontist or dentist... Read Article

Orthodontic Retainers - Dear Doctor Magazine

Why Orthodontic Retainers? It is common to wear retainers following orthodontic treatment or what people commonly refer to as braces, for good reason. Teeth must be “retained” or stabilized in their new position long enough for the gum tissue, bone and ligament to reform and mature around them, which can take several months. The teeth will tend to relapse into their old position quite rapidly if the retainers are not worn... Read Article