When your teeth are crooked, or you have a misaligned bite, you may decide to visit a dentist to correct these dental issues. Your dentist may use braces to straighten your teeth. However, retainers are the best for long term maintenance of your beautiful smile and bite. Having retainers will not only improve your smile and bite, but there are other advantages of getting them on. If you are looking for a dentist that can help improve your smile and bite, you can make an appointment with Washington Dental. We have a team of experienced and qualified dentists in Lomita, Carson, and Downtown Los Angeles that are committed to putting a smile on your face.

Why You Should Have Retainers

Retainers are typically installed as the final phase when undergoing orthodontic treatment. Once the braces are removed, your teeth can move back to their former position. Retainers help in maintaining the new position of your teeth.

When your teeth are straight, it becomes easier to clean them, reduce the buildup of plaque, and drastically reduce the possibility of developing cavities. In children, retainers help them chew their food better, meaning they get more nutrients from food. When food is well chewed, there is increased production of saliva, which contains enzymes that are useful in reducing plaque and cavities.

Children with breathing difficulties can have the situation improved by wearing retainers. Some special retainers not only help align the jaws and straighten teeth but also help children suffering from snoring and breathing as they sleep.

Retainers are also useful in children having speech impediments. Although keeping the teeth in the new position is the main reason for fasteners, they also help in placing the tongue correctly. This will go a long way in helping children learn how to pronounce words.

Types of Retainers

Before you decide on retainers, you should know the various kinds available and their pros and cons. Visiting your orthodontist first is critical in determining which retainers are suitable for you based on your needs and the condition you need to be rectified. Your orthodontist may decide to recommend one type of retainers or give you removable and permanent ones at the same time.

As earlier stated, after treatment of your crooked teeth or bite problems, you will need retainers to maintain your teeth’s new position. For your teeth to permanently retain their new place, it takes time, usually between four and six months. During this period, your teeth may try to return to their former position, causing what dentists call a relapse. Retainers are therefore worn to prevent the relapse from happening.

Retainers are either permanent or removable. Under these two categories, there are various types that we will discuss below.

The Pros and Cons of Removable Retainers

Removable retainers are not permanently fixed on your teeth. The advantages of these kinds of retainers are:

  • You can easily remove them when you need to eat, brush your teeth or floss
  • They are readily available and convenient to have

On the other hand, there are disadvantages to these retainers. These are:

  • Because of the ease of removing them, they can get lost easily, especially when removed and not placed in their case. Sometimes the case can also get misplaced especially by children
  • Because of the possibility of leaving them anywhere, they can get damaged easily
  • They can lead to excessive production of saliva
  • They create an environment where bacteria can grow and stay.

Aside from these disadvantages, removable retainers are associated with frequent relapses. Sometimes, a person can misplace their retainers and disregard replacing them. Other times, they don’t follow their dentist’s instructions and fail to wear them as expected. When this is the case, the teeth will quickly shift back to their former position, meaning the treatment does not work.

Removable retainers must be cleaned daily by gentle brushing to avoid the accumulation of plaque or bacteria. Removable retainers come in two types; these are the clear plastic retainers and the Hawley retainers.

Hawley Retainers

These are also known as wire retainers. They are made from a thin metallic wire with a plastic acrylic shaped base that is fitted at the top of your mouth. They can also be made to fit alongside your lower teeth on the inside. The wire runs on the outside to maintain the new alignment of your teeth. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this kind of retainer. The advantages are:

  • If you feel you need it fitted better, it can be adjusted. Sometimes your teeth may require some realignment later. The retainer can also be adjusted to adapt to the new position.
  • Compared to plastic retainers, Hawley retainers are more durable
  • In case it gets broken, it can get repaired
  • When proper care is taken towards it, it lasts for many years
  • This type of retainer is also helpful in enabling the lower and upper teeth to touch naturally.

Despite the many advantages, there are disadvantages to these retainers. These are:

  • It can negatively affect your speech compared to other retainers
  • In terms of aesthetics, it is easily noticeable compared to different kinds of retainers
  • At the initial stages, you may experience irritation on your cheeks or lips.

If these are the retainers you may prefer, then your budget should be between $150 and $340. The variance depends on the location and the orthodontist you choose.

Clear Plastic Removable Retainers

These kinds of retainers are molded according to your mouth. And in a way to fit your teeth perfectly in their new position. Dentists also refer to them as molded retainers, but in technical terms are referred to as vacuum-formed or thermoplastic retainers.

In making these retainers, it starts with the creation of a mold for your teeth. An extremely thin polyurethane or plastic is heated and sucked around this mold. There are various advantages to this retainer. These are:

  • It is not easily seen, making the wearer more comfortable. Because of this, you will feel secure in having it on at all times preventing relapse of your teeth
  • Compared to Hawley retainer, it is not bulky, and it is more comfortable to wear
  • It will not affect your speech as Hawley retainers would

These retainers, however, have various disadvantages despite their advantages. These disadvantages are:

  • In case you need it adjusted when realignment is necessary, you cannot adjust the retainers, but you must replace them entirely
  • It is not possible to repair it should it break or crack
  • Compared to permanent retainers, it affects your speech more
  • In case you expose it to heat, it can easily warp
  • The more you wear it, it gets discolored making it more visible
  • This type of retainer does not allow for the natural touching of your upper or lower teeth
  • With this kind of retainers, liquids can be trapped against the teeth resulting in cavities

Plastic fasteners are available in three popular brands. The difference between them is, however, on the material used in making them. These brands are Essix, Vivera, and Zendura.

Vivera retainers are often wrongly referred to as Invisalign. Although the same company makes them, they are different products. Invisalign is used to straighten or align teeth instead of using metallic braces. This means they are not retainers.

More people are opting to use clear retainers compared to Hawley retainers. If this is your preference as well, you must budget to spend between $100 and $285 for either upper or lower tray.

The Pros and Cons of Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are made from a braided or a solid wire typically carved into the shape of your aligned teeth. This wire is bonded or cemented inside the front teeth to prevent them from shifting. These types of retainers are often used on the bottom jaw or teeth. They are sometimes referred to as fixed, bonded, or lingual wire retainers. As the name suggests, they are permanently fixed, meaning only your orthodontist can remove them.

Orthodontists advise their use when there is a high risk of a relapse of the teeth. They are also ideal to use with children who are unlikely to follow the instructions that come with removable retainers. When these retainers are fitted, you do not need to remove them unless there is an excess buildup of tartar or plaque. If your gum is irritated by it, you can also have them removed. However, should one desire to remove them even when these conditions don’t apply, your dentist should be able to do it.

Permanent retainers have various advantages. These are:

  • You do not have to follow instructions on when you can wear them and how to
  • It gives you a confident smile because they are invisible to others
  • They do not affect the speech of the wearer
  • There is no possibility of misplacing or losing them
  • They cannot get easily damaged.

The disadvantages of permanent retainers are also there. They are:

  • Maintaining oral hygiene may be a challenge, especially when one needs to floss. For this reason, plaque and tartar can build-up resulting in gum diseases
  • The aspect of a permanent attachment may not be preferable to many
  • Sometimes, your tongue may get irritated by the metallic wire

Just like your teeth, you must maintain excellent dental health by brushing and flossing daily. You can use a threader to help get the floss under the wire to get rid of food particles that are trapped or plaque.

Even when your teeth are permanently fitted in their adjusted position, other reasons can cause them to relapse. Because of chewing, growth of teeth, and the wearing each day, a relapse can occur. This has led to orthodontists recommending a lifetime use of retainers.

If you opted for removable retainers, wearing them the exact way as instructed by your orthodontist is crucial. This will help you not lose the benefits you got from wearing braces. Most dentists will instruct their patients to wear the retainers all day every day for a year once braces are removed. Afterward, you may be told to wear the retainers only at night for an unspecified period. Depending on your case, however, the instructions may vary. Speaking to your orthodontist is always the best thing to do to maintain your beautiful smile.

How to Develop the Habit of Wearing your Retainers

Forming new habits takes different times for each person. If your child or even yourself is fitted with removable retainers, you need to develop a new pattern of wearing them as instructed. Some of the tips that will help you include:

  • Removable retainers usually come in a small plastic casing. This can be easily lost, especially by kids. Get a bigger bag that will be used to carry the case. Show your child how to put the plastic container containing the retainers in the big bag. It is easier to misplace the small plastic container as opposed to a big bag.
  • You can write a note and stick it to the container that will always remind the child or yourself were to keep the retainers
  • Always make sure you identify a permanent spot for keeping the retainers. If you can, pick a brighter case that is conspicuous

Although it may take time to develop this habit in kids, persistence will get them developing the practice.

Caring for Your Retainers

Fixing or getting retainers is the easy part. However, you will need to maintain them well to ensure they last long and serve you well. Learning how to clean your retainers properly is essential. Retainers can quickly accumulate plaque, bacteria, and tartar. As you clean your teeth daily, retainers must also be accorded similar care each day.

All retainers are not cleaned the same way. Depending on the retainers you have, they require different methods of maintaining them and cleaning. Below, we discuss in detail how to ensure you properly maintain your fasteners so that they last longer and you avoid diseases.

Cleaning Your Retainers

Earlier, we discussed the three types of retainers. The Hawley retainers are fixed to your mouth, and a wire is used to hold them in place. Clear retainers come in various types and are placed over the teeth. They are hardly visible and are easily removable. They are, however, more delicate compared to the Hawley retainers.

Bonded or fixed retainers, on the other hand, offer a permanent solution. They are cemented on the teeth and can stay in place indefinitely unless one wishes to remove them.

Cleaning your Clear Plastic or Hawley Retainers

These are removable retainers meaning they can be removed from your mouth daily to get cleaned as you clean your teeth. To properly clean your clear plastic or Hawley retainers, you need to follow the steps below:

  • Ensure to clean the retainers as soon as they are out of your mouth when still wet. This makes it easier to clean any food particles before they harden on it.
  • After eating, take warm water and brush your retainers. It is essential to clean your teeth at this time too
  • When you need to clean them deeply, put mild soap for washing dishes in lukewarm water. Using a soft brush, gently clean out any food particles and plaque. Avoid using toothpaste because they are harsh to the retainers and can result in scratches.
  • Where possible with clear retainers, use a cotton swab to reach the ridges and deep grooves
  • Speak to your dentist on how you can use a retainer cleaner or denture cleaner to soak them in. Follow the instructions of cleaning your orthodontist will recommend.

Sometimes, your retainers can have stubborn particles attached to them. Do not force their removal; instead, take them to your dentist who may have a stronger solution to remove them.

Cleaning your Bonded or Fixed Retainers

These retainers are permanently cemented on your lower teeth. To keep them clean, you must floss daily, as you do on your teeth. At the start, the process can be intimidating, but with practice, it will become easier. The following tips will help you clean your retainers and maintain them well.

  • Using a floss threader, take floss that is six inches and thread between your lower teeth
  • Use your fingers to hold one end and a threader to keep the other end
  • Once the floss is under the retainer wire, make movements back and forth through all the teeth. Ensure where possible to move the floss underneath the gum line.
  • Move the floss on the side to get each area you need cleaning. Pull it down until you get it between the teeth.
  • For each tooth that is attached to the retainer, repeat the process.

If you experience difficulties flossing, talk to your dentist, who can help you identify a technique that works for you or give you additional tips.

Tips to Help you Care for your Removable Retainers

As earlier stated, removable retainers are delicate, especially the plastic parts. To keep them for long and well maintained, you need to follow the below tips:

  • Avoid heat. When your retainers are exposed to high temperatures, they will easily warp and get destroyed. Make sure to keep them away from boiling water, especially when cleaning, dishwashers, microwaves, your car’s dashboard, dryers, or washers. Remember, to wash your retainers, use only lukewarm water and not hot or boiling water.
  • Avoid using chemicals. You do not need to use harsh chemicals to get your retainers well cleaned. Cleaning with harsh chemicals does not guarantee the removal of bacteria better than using mild soap and warm water.
  • Soak them. In case you want to soak them using tablets, avoid long soaks, especially with Hawley retainers. Long soaks with tablets will corrode the metal used and damage them. Read the instructions on the cleaning tablet and adhere to them, or soak them for the same time you would ordinarily clean them.

You can also use your mouthwash to get rid of any smell from your retainers. Your mouth wash can freshen them while killing bacteria that may be found. However, if your mouthwash has alcohol as one of its ingredients, you need to exercise caution. Alcohol can damage the plastic part of your retainer. You can, however, mix one part of water to one part of the mouthwash and soak your retainers for a short period.

  • Clean your retainer case. You are likely to ignore the case when you clean your retainers. Regular cleaning of the case is advisable to avoid the accumulation of bacteria. Try and clean once a day before you put your retainers back in it. Using warm soapy water, scrub all the areas, and rinse thoroughly. Dry it before placing the fasteners back.
  • Be mindful and watchful. If your pets get hold of your retainers, they will destroy them by chewing on them, and they can choke them. Be careful where you place them to avoid such accidents or to lose them.
  • Replace your retainers when needed. The daily wearing of retainers subjects them to wear and tear. Eventually, you may be required to replace them. Some retainers like the Essix will last a minimum of six years but sometimes longer. Other fasteners, when well cared for such as Hawley, can last longer, approximately between five and ten years. When needed, it is essential to replace them to avoid relapse of your teeth.

What Happens When You Do Not Clean your Retainers?

Just like you do not ignore cleaning your teeth, you cannot afford not to wash your retainers. When you fail to clean them, they will accumulate plaque, bacteria, and tartar found in your mouth. With time, they will begin to smell and taste funny and can cause you to suffer from gum disease.

Retainers are also known to harbor dangerous bacteria that can lead to various illnesses. You could also get exposed to a fungus called Candida albicans that can cause an infection. In case you notice some symptoms that concern you, such as swelling and redness of your gums or mouth, you need to see your doctor immediately.

Find an Orthodontist Near Me

It is normal to worry about misaligned teeth or an uneven bite. Fortunately, you can have the situation permanently resolved if you use retainers to maintain your teeth’s new position. Finding an experienced orthodontist is also essential in this process. If you have these problems with your teeth and want an experienced orthodontist, we at Washington Dental are here to help you. You can visit our offices in Lomita, Carson, or Downtown LA for help.

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