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A retainer is a custom-made orthodontic appliance are 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. It is made of wire and plastic or solid plastic, your custom-made retainer will keep your teeth from shifting and protect your investment in orthodontics. There are two types of orthodontic retainers: fixed and removable.
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. This retainer may affect your speech slightly when you first use it, but this quickly improves with time.
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 lifespan 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. So it is not visible.
Because teeth begin to shift naturally as we age, a permanent retainer typically offers better long-term results for teeth straightening than a removable one. You can’t forget to put it in — it’s already there! Temporary retainers get lost or are forgotten on trips, and often fail to get used as often as they should be.
One drawback to permanent retainers is flossing. Some patients find it more difficult to floss with a permanent retainer, but we can show you effective ways to floss fairly quickly with your permanent retainer.