Most of us have seen kids wear or remove retainers, or even had them ourselves, but retainers have come a long way and each one works a bit differently. Some retainers may be confusing to you, or you may not know how to care for them.
What Is a Retainer?
After braces have been worn, retainers are used to keep teeth in their new positions. Kids and teenagers are still growing, and their teeth can shift in their expanding jaws if they do not wear retainers to keep them set in new positions. This natural shifting can be controlled with retainers.
Retainers are even used when braces are not necessary, such as when only one tooth needs to be moved or if spaces between teeth need to be closed to prevent future problems.
There are a number of mouth problems that retainers can help with besides shifting teeth, such as tongue thrust, which is when your tongue sneaks through your teeth when you talk. By doing this, you will train your tongue to stop interfering with your speech. Additionally, they can be used to treat temporomandibular disorders (TMD), which are usually caused by a bite problem (when the teeth don’t meet properly when the jaws are closed) or tooth grinding.
Consult your orthodontist.
If you receive a retainer, your kids dental and orthodontics office will explain the schedule they believe you need. For a certain period of time (usually measured in months), retainers must be worn all the time except for meals. It’s possible for some kids to start wearing their retainers at night right away.
The types of retainers
- Essix Retainer: One or two days after braces are removed, an Essix retainer is sometimes placed on the upper teeth. It is similar to the Invisalign appliance. Typically, it is worn at night for 24 months. When it wears out, the orthodontist may replace it with a more traditional wire retainer. This type of retainer has caused discomfort for some people.
- Bonded Retainer: After braces have been removed, bonded retainers are usually placed behind the lower teeth. Since it can’t be removed, it is considered “permanent” since it is bonded to the teeth with composite material. Upper teeth are not usually fitted with this type of retainer since it would interfere with your bite. It is possible for bonded retainers to remain in place for several years.
- Hawley Retainer: This is a more traditional wire retainer, designed after several years of using another retaining device. In addition, it is adjustable so that minor movements of the teeth can be accommodated. For minor orthodontic issues, this type of retainer may be worn full time instead of braces. In order to customize the retainer, the plastic part can be made in a variety of colors and patterns.
Maintaining your retainer
Your retainers live in your mouth with food particles, bacteria, and plaque that cause tooth decay. Therefore, it’s very important to clean your retainer regularly and thoroughly. Ask your orthodontist what type of cleaning they recommend. When not in use, plastic retainers should usually be soaked because they can crack if they get too dry outside your mouth. Furthermore, they should be kept away from hot water and heat sources, and their wires should be protected from bending.
That’s why it’s critical to keep your retainer case on hand. If you want a safe, clean place to put your retainer that you won’t forget, you might even want to have several around. Those retainers that cannot be exposed to toothpaste and toothbrushes, like the Essix retainer, can be cleaned and odor-free with soaking solutions. To keep your retainer in top condition, contact our kids dental and orthodontics office for recommendations and to schedule an appointment.