Have you recently completed your orthodontic treatment or are you close to finishing and want to know the best dental retainer option for you?
In this blog, I will go through the pros and cons of each type of dental retainer to help you make an informed decision, but keep in mind that the ultimate choice will depend largely on the advice of your orthodontist. They are aware of your history, any difficulties encountered during your orthodontic treatment, and any aesthetic needs or preferences you may have.
However, not all orthodontists are equal, and some may only suggest the type of dental retainer they typically use, disregarding your specific needs. This is why it’s important to have your own informed judgment and be aware of the different options available to you.
It’s important to note that the retention phase of orthodontics is crucial. Some people think that once their orthodontic treatment is done, they no longer have to worry about their teeth, but this is not the case. The teeth have recently undergone a process of movement and the bone also had to be remodeled in order to make this happen. To ensure long-term success of the orthodontic treatment, retainers are necessary to complete the bone remodeling process, which can take anywhere from 1 to 2 years depending on the patient and the complexity of their orthodontic treatment.
How long should I wear my retainer?
It is usually recommended to use it for 1 to 2 years, initially all day and then only at night. However, in some cases, this process may have to last longer, especially if the treatment was more complex and the teeth have a stronger “memory.” In these cases, when the dental retainer is discontinued, it is common to feel that the teeth return to their original position.
What are the types of dental retainers available and which is the best option?
This retainer is made up of a wire attached to the back of the teeth using a special type of resin called fluid resin. It is particularly recommended for patients who experienced significant overcrowding in their teeth or for those who are not careful with removable retainers that can be taken off, forgotten, or lost. Additionally, this type of dental retainer is ideal for individuals who prioritize appearance, as it is attached to the back of the teeth and is not visible.
One of the major drawbacks of wire retainers is that they make it difficult to clean teeth thoroughly, leading to a build-up of plaque and faster formation of tartar, especially in the inner bottom portion of the teeth. To overcome this issue, one must maintain strict oral hygiene, use dental flossers and interdental brushes regularly, and even purchase an intraoral mirror to ensure proper cleaning.
It’s possible to get fixed dental retainers with special designs that allow for easier cleaning. You can ask your orthodontist if you’re eligible for these hygienic retainers with curved features that make cleaning easier.
2. Wire retainer
The wire retainer used to be the most popular. One of its benefits is that it can fix a tooth that has shifted due to its flexible wires, making it easier for the orthodontist to make adjustments. It’s also simpler to repair when it becomes worn out, potentially leading to a longer lifespan and lower cost in the long term.
One of the major drawbacks of wire retainers is that they don’t provide a visually appealing appearance. People often want to show off their straight teeth after completing their orthodontic treatment, but this is not possible with wire retainers as they are visible to the naked eye and consist of metal.
The wire retainer can also have an impact on the appearance of restorations, such as resin or ceramic veneers on the teeth’s edges, as it can leave marks and cause discoloration, resulting in a dull, gray line. This can be a drawback for patients who have recently completed their orthodontic treatment and want their teeth to look pristine and metal-free.
3. Clear Retainer (Essix Plates)
The transparent retainer is one of the most popular and preferred options. This is because they provide both functionality as a retainer and added protection to the teeth while also enhancing the overall appearance of the patient’s smile. These retainers are preferred by many due to their aesthetic appeal, making patients feel more comfortable wearing them.
They are very quick to perform because many times they do not require sending to the laboratory, in my case we perform them the same day the orthodontics is finished, we take the impressions and the patient can return later for them.
The drawback of transparent retainers is that they can’t be easily altered, as they are made of a material known as Essix. If they lose their effectiveness, they need to be replaced in order to continue serving their purpose.
What are the steps for proper retainer maintenance?
Clear retainers need to be taken care of in a special way to keep their clear appearance and prevent them from becoming yellow in color.
These same care instructions apply to the acrylic part of wire retainers, which are prone to staining.
- Wash your retainers with mild, liquid hand soap and avoid using toothpaste, as it is abrasive and may scratch the surface.
- Use a brush with very soft bristles, such as a children’s brush, to clean the retainers and prevent buildup of food particles and odor.
- Clean the retainers every two weeks by soaking them in a glass of water with effervescent tablets used for cleaning full dentures. You can also use retainer-specific cleaning tablets, though these may be difficult to find.
- Avoid exposing the retainers to hot water as it may change their chemistry and cause them to shrink.
- Do not store the retainers in napkins, as this is a common cause of loss.
- Take special care to keep your pets from biting your retainers as it is a common cause of loss.