Home Care: Retainers


Once the braces treatment is complete, the teeth require time to settle back into the gums and jawbone.  Retainers, a plastic and metal device that covers the teeth, help this process. The retainer is much more comfortable to wear than braces and it’s even removable, so keeping track of it is important. Whether you have to wear your retainer for just a few months or over a year, the time invested will result in a smile you can be proud of.

Why Do I Need To Wear A Retainer?

Retainers serve a similar purpose as braces but are less restrictive for the patient. The most common reason for wearing a retainer is to mitigate the natural shifting that occurs after removing your braces. Retainers may also be worn to adjust a tooth in cases where braces aren’t warranted. Patients with temporomandibular disorder, better known as TMD, may also be instructed to wear a retainer to correct problems like malocclusion or bruxism.

Types Of Retainers

Depending on the needs of the patient, different types of retainers may be used. The most noticeable differences between retainers are appearance and permanence. Some are removable to allow the patient to brush their natural teeth, while others are cemented into the back of the mouth. Here are the 3 primary types of retainers often provided by orthodontists:

1.    Hawley Retainers

The traditional retainer comprised of a fitted plastic surface that sits in the mouth and a metal wire is known as a Hawley retainer. The wires of a Hawley retainer can be specifically bent to fit around teeth that need the most attention.

The Hawley retainer has the benefit of being adjustable and customizable and will last a long time if properly maintained. On the downside, it’s more noticeable than the other tooth-alignment options and may cause a patient to have a lisp until the wearer grows accustomed to it.

2.    Essix Retainers

Clear in appearance, the Essix retainer is less noticeable than the traditional Hawley retainer. Resembling an Invisalign aligner, the Essix retainer fits exactly over the teeth and is the most discreet type of retainer.

However, the price for not being noticeable is significant. The major problem with Essix retainers  (and the reason why many orthodontists won’t use them) is that they don’t allow the top and bottom teeth to touch naturally. This shortens their lifespan, causing them to wear out sooner than other retainers.

3.    Bonded Retainers

A bonded retainer is a non-removable option because it’s cemented into the back of the teeth. A bonded retainer is completely unnoticeable because it’s attached to the back of the teeth, leaving nothing showing in the front.

Since they can’t be removed by the patient, bonded retainers are excellent at straightening out the teeth. They also provide the advantage of being inconspicuous. However, the challenges with bonded retainers are that they can be uncomfortable for the tongue and difficult to clean.

Cleaning Your Retainer

To keep your retainer clean, it’s important that it stays moist and that you soak it in distilled water. The retainer should never dry out, because tartar and biofilm will bond to it. Soaking isn’t sufficient, as your retainer must also be brushed using the least porous material available. The cleaning solution should be FDA approved, and able to permeate the small gaps in the retainer.

Common Retainer Problems

Common retainer problems include:

  • letting it dry out
  • exposing it to boiling water
  • cleaning with non-distilled water
  • putting it in the dishwasher
  • using poor quality retainer cleaners and tablets

Finally, the most common problem people have with retainers is that they’re easy to lose, so you’ll definitely want to keep track of your retainer to avoid wasting time and money on a replacement.

Help, I’ve Lost My Retainer!

It’s unfortunate to lose a device as intricate and expensive as a retainer, but they’re small and it occasionally happens. If you’ve lost your retainer, your progress doesn’t have to suffer. Contact Dr. Stephen Grussmark at the Centre for Braces in Miami as soon as possible and set up an appointment. They will very likely have to take another impression of your teeth to ensure that your new retainer matches the current shape of your mouth. After your new impression is taken, it typically only takes a week or so before your new retainer is ready.

Call Your Miami Orthodontist, Dr. Stephen Grussmark

Dedicated to competence, commitment, and integrity, Dr. Stephen Grussmark has treated over 15,000 patients with a massive variety of dental ailments. If you if you need braces, a retainer or some other type of orthodontic treatment, contact the Centre for Braces in Miami to set up an appointment to assess your oral health.