Everything You Need To Know About Retainers

Here at Petrunic Orthodontics, there’s nothing we love more than seeing a patient’s face light up when their beautiful new smile is revealed for the first time! It’s a wonderful feeling, and we never get tired of helping children, teens, and adults achieve the exceptional results they’ve been hoping for. Completing the active phase of treatment is a celebration in our office, but the work doesn’t stop there—now it’s time for the retention phase! We’ve got everything you need to know about retainers right here. 

Once your braces come off or you use your last aligner, the gentle pressure that moved the teeth into their new positions is removed. It takes time for the bones and tissue around the teeth to adjust to all the shifting that occurred throughout the treatment process. Without something holding them in place, the teeth will begin to drift back to their original positions. That’s why the retention phase is so critical! Keep reading to learn more about why wearing a retainer regularly is such an important part of keeping your smile in place. 

What is a retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance, just like braces or clear aligners. Once you complete the active phase of your treatment, we’ll use an impression or scan of your newly straightened teeth to create a customized retainer. This will usually happen on the same day your braces are removed or after you’ve used your last aligner. We may decide to take another set of X-rays or scans to ensure everything is where it should be, then we’ll get your retainer ready and walk you through when and how to wear it. 

What do retainers do? 

As we briefly explained above, wearing a retainer regularly helps prevent your teeth from drifting back to their original positions over time. This phenomenon is known as “relapse” and can occur even after successful orthodontic treatment. Relapse is most common in young adults, but it can happen at any age. That’s because your teeth will always remember their original place in your mouth! Once the constant pressure of your braces or aligners is removed, they’ll begin to slowly move back towards those spaces. This is exactly why it’s so important to always wear your retainer exactly as directed by Dr. Petrunic. When you don’t, it can undo all your hard-earned progress over time. 


What are the different types of retainers?

At Petrunic Orthodontics, there are a few different types of retainers available. Dr. Petrunic will decide which is best for your smile based on your specific needs, your preferences, and the expected level of compliance.

Fixed retainers

A fixed retainer is made of a thin wire that’s been positioned across the interior surface of the lower or upper front teeth, then bonded into place with glue. This wire stretches across several teeth, so good dental hygiene will require a little extra effort, particularly when it comes to flossing. However, it does tend to have the best outcome overall – the bonded wire does a fantastic job keeping newly straightened teeth in place. As an extra bonus, you never have to remember to wear it or worry about misplacing it! 

Removable retainers

We have a couple of options available when it comes to removable retainers. The Hawley retainer is made of a wire and acrylic material, while the Essix retainer is composed of a clear plastic material similar to Invisalign aligners. Both of these are custom-made to fit your mouth following the first phase of orthodontic treatment.

Hawley retainers

Hawley retainers are one of the oldest styles and probably what comes to mind when you think of retainers. They’re kept in place by a wire that wraps around the teeth, which is then combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of the mouth. The stainless steel wires can continue to be adjusted to achieve minor movement of the front teeth if needed. 

While many orthodontists are currently moving away from this more traditional retainer, it can still be very useful in some cases! If you’re given a Hawley retainer, you should follow these recommendations to ensure it’s being properly cared for.

  • Gently brush the retainer with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste. Do this daily to remove any food debris and bacteria.
  • Soak the retainer in a denture cleaner a few times per week to help kill germs and freshen it up.
  • Keep your retainer away from heat or hot water to protect the shape.
  • Store it in its case when you are not wearing it.

Essix retainers

Essix retainers have been a popular choice with both orthodontists and patients in recent years! They’re made of transparent plastic material, and look similar to the trays that are used with the Clarity clear aligner system. An Essix retainer will be molded to the unique shape of your mouth and is much less noticeable than a traditional wire retainer. It should also last as long as you need it, provided you take good care of it. That includes:

  • Rinsing the retainer in cold water each time you take it out
  • Rinsing the retainer before you put it back in your mouth
  • Storing the retainer in a plastic case whenever you’re not wearing it
  • Gently brushing the retainer after each meal, using a soft toothbrush
  • Only using cool or lukewarm water on the retainer
  • Never placing the retainer in hot water or near a heated surface
  • Washing the retainer with a specialized cleaner once every few months

Each of these removable retainer options makes it easy to maintain a good dental hygiene routine, but you will have to remember to wear your removable retainer regularly. You should always be careful when handling it and be mindful of where you leave your retainer to avoid misplacing or damaging it. 


Keep your smile in place with retainers from Petrunic Orthodontics

Many experts now believe that most patients will need to wear some type of retainer part-time indefinitely for a lifetime of confident smiles. Don’t let this recommendation scare you, though! How long and how often you’ll need to wear your retainer will depend on your unique smile. Dr. Petrunic and the team will be happy to answer any questions and discuss any concerns you have about this process at any time! 

Petrunic Orthodontics is committed to finding exactly the right treatment for you and your smile. That includes recommending the best retainer to maintain your well-deserved results! Wherever you are in the treatment process, our expert team is here to provide you with world-class service and personalized care. If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment plan or retainer use, contact our Prattville office and we’ll be happy to help! Our goal is to keep you smiling for many years to come.