A retainer is a custom-made orthodontic appliances designed to “retain” or hold the position of your teeth. Once your braces come off, your teeth need to settle into the jawbone and soft tissue that hold them in place. Made of wire and plastic or solid plastic, your custom-made retainer will keep your teeth from shifting and protect your investment in orthodontics!
As you age, your teeth tend to shift. Your retainer will also help control this naturally occurring, age-related shifting. Wearing your retainer exactly as instructed is the best insurance that your orthodontic treatment results last a lifetime.
There are three basic types of retainers.
The most common type of retainer, Hawley retainers have a design that consists of wires and clasps embedded in a relatively thick plastic body that covers over the roof of the your mouth or lies along the tongue side of your lower teeth. The clasps grasp selected teeth so the retainer is anchored securely. The retaining “bow” wire arches across the front side of the your teeth and holds and maintains their alignment.
These retainers are clear plastic vacuum-formed appliances that are made by taking a cast of your teeth. Although they are slightly less noticeable, they don’t have the life span of Hawley retainers.
Fixed retainers are also referred to as “bonded” or “permanent” retainers. And, as each of these names suggest, these types of appliances are attached (bonded) directly to the backsides of the front teeth (3 teeth left of center and 3 right of center). Fixed retainers do not touch or hold the back teeth because it’s not possible to have a wire go round the entire mouth. Thus, the back teeth may move over time. Also, since they are attached to your teeth, they cannot be removed, except by your orthodontist.