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Teeth retainers: maintaining your results after braces or aligners

23 June · 5 minutes

If you’re looking for a way to keep your teeth straight after braces or any other orthodontic treatment, dental retainers are the solution. Read on to find out everything you need to know about this next step in your orthodontic journey including, what a retainer is, how long you have to wear them, and how much they cost.

What is a teeth retainer and what is it used for?

Starting with the basics, let’s address what teeth retainers are and what they’re used for. Orthodontic retainers are devices that keep our teeth aligned and in the proper position after completing having braces or aligners. Our teeth keep moving even in adulthood after wearing orthodontics, so using your retainer is vital.

People say that teeth have a memory because they tend to wind up in the original position. So if you don’t wear your retainer you could end up slowly going back to the smile you had before treatment.

Orthodontic treatment doesn’t stop after you get your braces off or you stop wearing your aligners. Dental retainers are the third and final stage of treatment - after the diagnosis and active phases.

Patient getting her clear removable retainers after braces

Different types of retainers

When it comes to choosing an option to keep your perfect smile, there are a few different types of retainers. They can be split into two categories: removable retainers and permanent retainers. Your orthodontist should suggest what they think is best, but in the end it’s up to you to choose the device that suits you best.

Permanent or fixed retainers

For some patients remembering to wear your retainer isn’t an issue, because theirs is permanently in their mouth. Fixed, or permanent retainers are essentially a metal wire that goes behind the teeth, in the upper and lower arch, from canine to canine and is completely invisible from the outside.

It can take a couple days for patients to get used to having permanent retainers in their mouth, but since it’s ultra-thin it doesn't cause pain or discomfort and is easy to adapt to. Once the tongue is accustomed to the feel of the device, you won't even notice it's there.

The only downside of fixed retainers is that they can make flossing difficult. So you’ll have to find a way to ensure you brush well to get a good clean in those areas. It's also important that you get a professional dental cleaning every 6 months to a year.

Removable retainers

As the name implies, removable retainers have the advantage of being removable. This means you can eat and brush with a gear-free mouth. Also, the adaptation period is much faster, especially if you have previously used removable orthodontics.

On the flipside, the disadvantage of removable retainers is that you have to remember to wear them. It's also important to wear them correctly and during the hours indicated by your specialist. Be careful when you take them out to eat that you put them in their case and don't leave them behind. Lastly, these types of retainers should be changed from time to time to prevent them from becoming damaged.

There are several different types of removable retainers. The most common are:

Hawley retainers

The hawley retainer is a removable retainer that consists of hooks and a wire to hold the teeth in place. The wire is visible since it runs around the outside of the teeth. This dental retainer covers the entire palate, preventing bite alteration and unwanted tooth movement after braces or aligners.

Patient smiling with her new hawley removable retainers

Clear retainers

The other type of removable dental retainers are those that are clear. These are gaining popularity because they’re comfortable and invisible. You can easily take them out for cleaning since they’re essentially a splint similar to aligners used in invisible orthodontic treatments. Also, they rarely cause discomfort.

Retention phase

This last phase of treatment begins as soon as the active phase is finished. If you get a permanent retainer, you’ll most likely get it put in the same day that your orthodontic device is removed.

Whereas if you choose removable clear retainers, the orthodontist has to do a 3D scan so that they’ll fit your teeth perfectly. At Impress, we advise our patients to continue wearing their aligners until their retainers arrive.

How long do you have to wear a retainer?

All retainers should be worn every day, that’s a fact. But in terms of how long you have to wear your retainer each day, there isn’t one right answer. It mostly depends on the type of retainer you choose:

  • Permanent retainers are, obviously, immovable, so you’ll always have to wear them.
  • As for removable retainers, these should be worn both during the day and at night, except of course, when you’re eating or brushing your teeth. You’ll need to continue this way for as long as your orthodontist indicates. Normally after the adaptation period, they’ll only need to be worn at night.

When can I stop wearing my retainer?

One of the most common questions among patients when they finish their orthodontic treatment is: when can I stop wearing my retainer? Regardless if you have permanent or removable retainers, they’re not a temporary addition. They should be used throughout your entire life to ensure that you maintain your results and keep that newly straightened smile.

The risks of not wearing retainers after braces or removable orthodontics

You wouldn’t believe how many patients we’ve seen with the same issue. They had braces or aligners some time ago, achieved their dream results, and then didn’t wear their retainers as instructed. Then they show up to the clinic, disappointed and looking to start treatment again.

So, if you catch yourself not wearing retainers after braces or any other orthodontic treatment, put them in! If you don’t, it's likely that you'll need another orthodontic treatment in the future, as your teeth continue to move.

How to clean retainers

If you’re wondering how to clean your retainers, don’t worry, it’s pretty simple.

If you have fixed retainers, they don’t require any special care, you just have to brush your teeth like normal and the retainers get cleaned too.

But when it comes to how to clean your removable retainer, clear or hawley, it requires just a little more effort. It's recommended that you wash them after removing them and before putting them back in. You do this with cold water and neutral soap. Don’t use toothpaste to clean them because you can scratch them.

Washing them not only keeps them in good condition, but also eliminates bad odors.

Patient demonstrating how to clean clear retainers 

How much do removable and permanent retainers cost?

Many of you are probably thinking, ok, so how much do removable and permanent retainers cost? The price of retainers can vary depending on whether they are fixed or removable. In addition, there are other factors that can influence the cost of retainers, like the materials, the clinic or specialist you go to, etc. Below, we have cost estimates for both permanent and removable retainers, including hawley and clear:

  • Permanent retainer cost: between $250 - $500, approximately
  • Hawley retainer cost: between $150 - $300, approximately
  • Clear retainer cost: between $100 - $250, approximately

You should note that these prices only include a single device, so the price will increase if you need more than one.

Impress removable clear retainers

When your treatment is over, you’ll have to go into the clinic for an in-person visit. There we’ll take a new 3D scan to make your clear retainers, which you’ll receive a few days later. Initially, you’ll need to wear your retainers both during the day and at night for as long as your orthodontist recommends. But after this period, you'll only need to wear them at night. We recommend that you change them regularly, like every 6 to 9 months.

You can use Impress retainers even if you haven't done your orthodontic treatment with us. 

So whether you got your teeth straightened with us, or somewhere else, come get your custom removable clear retainers with Impress. We want to invite you to a free consultation so you can learn more about the retention plans we offer. You can get in touch with us by calling (888) 490 1421, or shooting us a message on WhatsApp or email at support.us@smile2impress.com. And you can always book your initial consultation online.

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Frequently asked questions about teeth retainers

Do retainers hurt your teeth?

Nope. Retainers don’t hurt your teeth because they’re not making any movements, all the hard work is done. Sometimes they take a little getting used to, but that’s true for anything new, after a while you won’t notice them anymore.

Can your teeth keep moving even with retainers?

If you’re using your retainer correctly, your teeth shouldn't be moving. If you suspect that they are, you should consult your orthodontist. Maybe your retention system isn’t the best fit for you.

What should I do if my fixed or permanent retainer broke?

Regardless of what type of retainer you have, if it gets broken you should go to your orthodontist’s office as soon as possible to get them fixed.

Can retainers straighten your teeth?

No, the job of retainers isn’t to straighten teeth. Their function is to maintain previously done orthodontic work. So they can’t be responsible for correcting your teeth, just for preventing possible dental movements that may occur after orthodontics.

What happens if I do not wear my retainer for more than a month?

Making sure that you wear your retainers every day is crucial to maintaining your orthodontic results. You might even notice that your retainer doesn't fit right after only a day or two since you wore it last. So, wearing retainers for the first time in more than a month could mean that your retainers no longer fit. In which case, you'll have to request new ones for the new positioning of your teeth.

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