After orthodontic treatment is completed, it is very important for patients to wear a retainer to keep the teeth in their new position. Because teeth naturally shift with time, these appliances help prevent this “shifting back” from happening.
1. CLEAR RETAINERS
Clear retainers are clear trays, which look like Invisalign aligners. These retainers make sure that the teeth will stay in position because of the vacuum-formed hard plastic that accurately prevents shifting.
The main benefit of clear retainers is that they are esthetic, and thus hardly noticeable. If a patient needs to wear a retainer throughout the day, a clear retainer is a great option; the wearer does not need to feel self-conscious about smiling because there is nothing to see! Another advantage of clear retainers is that they do not feel cumbersome. Because they do not cover the roof of the mouth it’s easy for patients to adjust to these types of retainers and to speak confidently with them in.
2. TRADITIONAL RETAINERS
Like clear retainers, traditional retainers are worn after orthodontic treatment to help maintain the teeth’s new position in the mouth, and are removable. However, the similarities between the two types of retainers now end, because unlike clear retainers, traditional retainers are made acrylic or plastic and they have metal wires.
Advantages of Traditional Retainers
While these retainers are more obvious to detect in the mouth, they have several advantages over clear retainers. For example, Dr. David Markham can easily adjust this type of retainer if it is necessary to shift the teeth or make small corrections after treatment. These retainers are also very sturdy, can last a long time, and are very easy to clean, which is vital to proper oral hygiene.
Disadvantages of Traditional Retainers
The most significant drawback of traditional retainers is that they are noticeable, and as such may not be appropriate for patients who are extremely self-conscious about their smile and their teeth. It should be noted that these retainers can feel bulkier than clear retainers, can cover the roof of the mouth, and may cause very minor speech changes. Fortunately, however, most patients will eventually adjust to wearing a retainer, and the above concerns are usually only temporary.
3. Fixed (cemented) retainers
A fixed retainer is an appliance that is permanently placed in the mouth. It is usually bonded to the teeth, and as such does not need to be inserted or removed. A fixed retainer is great for patients who do not want to worry about removing and losing their retainers, and it helps to make sure that the teeth stay in their proper place and do not shift.
There are a few drawbacks, however, to fixed retainers. It can be difficult to clean the teeth that are bonded to a cemented retainer, and special care needs to be taken to ensure that the area around the retainer is kept clean, as calculus (hardened plaque) can easily build up around the retainer. Thus, careful brushing and flossing (often with a floss threader) is very important to maintain healthy teeth and gums around the cemented retainer. Another consideration is that if a cavity were to develop around a cemented retainer, it is more difficult for a filling to be placed, and thus the retainer may have to be adjusted or removed entirely, and then replaced once the filling is complete. A final consideration for cemented retainers is that there are restrictions as to what foods you can eat. As is the case with wearing braces, there are restrictions with what foods can be eaten because hard, sticky, chewy foods can break or distort the cemented retainer.
There are advantages and disadvantages to traditional, clear, and cemented retainers, and it’s up to Dr. David Markham and the patient to decide which type of retainer is appropriate for each patient’s given situation.