Retainer to fix teeth after brace: removable and fixed retainer

Installing retainers is an orthodontic procedure performed right after the braces are removed. Its goal is to keep the teeth from shifting or moving out of their current position, maintaining the position of the newly straightened teeth in the long run. Retainers are worn for several years and in some cases, for an indefinite period as long as patients know how to care for their retainers properly.

Conditions Treated with Dental Appliances

Signs that you or your child may be a candidate for orthodontic appliances include the following:

  • Improper jaw alignment (growth and habit disorders) causing teeth to meet abnormally or not at all, possibly causing TMD (temporomandibular joint disorders)
  • Sleep disorders, such as snoring or obstructive sleep apnea
  • Full mouth reconstructionand/or smile makeovers requiring stabilization
  • Early or late loss of baby teeth, which can result in spacing problems, overcrowding, impacted and/or crooked teeth
  • Finger sucking, tongue thrusting, lip wedging or other oral habits that can result in protruding teeth and unharmonious jaw growth
  • Difficulty chewing or biting
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Crowded, misplaced, protruding or blocked-out (possibly impacted) teeth
  • Biting the inside of the cheek
  • Facial imbalance or asymmetry
  • Teeth grindingor clenching

Complications from Untreated Conditions

Protruding, crowded or irregularly spaced teeth create an unattractive appearance and can make oral hygiene difficult. Poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss — in addition to a host of secondary health problems. An improper bite can interfere with chewing and speaking, cause abnormal wear to tooth enamel, and contribute to jaw problems such as TMJ. Other possible complications include earaches, headaches, migraines, neck and shoulder pains, and breathing and sleeping problems, such as snoring and lack of self confidence.

Braces and Retainers: A Quick Comparison Guide

Most people know that braces and retainers are meant to straighten out crooked teeth. But many people don’t know how these dental appliances differ. Let’s compare the two.

  • Bracesare cemented to your teeth during the treatment process. So you can’t take them out.
  • Retainersare removable. You can pop them out whenever its time to eat or brush your teeth.
  • Bracesare made up of brackets that the dentist glues to the teeth. Stiff wires run over the top of the brackets. The wires apply pressure to the teeth and move them into place.
  • Retainerscan be made in two different ways:
    • Clear, plastic retainers that fit over the entire tooth and go all the way around the teeth to the back of the mouth.
    • A molded piece of plastic that fits into the roof of the mouth with an attached wire that runs over the front of the teeth.
  • Bracesare usually worn between 18-24 months. But each case is different depending on the severity of your dental issues.
  • Retainersare worn for several months after the dentist removes your braces. Your dentist may ask you to wear a retainer at night indefinitely to ensure that your teeth don’t shift back to their old positions.
  • Braceswork better for more complex orthodontic problems.
  • Retainerswork well for minor adjustments where only one or two teeth need to be moved.
  • Braceshold continual pressure on the teeth to shift them into a new position.
  • Retainersstabilize the teeth, allowing surrounding tissues to conform to the new tooth alignment achieved by the braces.
  • Bracessometimes cause discomfort, pain, and even some minor bleeding when first applied. The tissues inside your mouth are sensitive and it takes some time to toughen them up against the new hardware in your mouth.
  • Retainersdon’t generally cause pain to the inside of your mouth. But they can cause some tooth sensitivity as the teeth move into place.
  • Bracesare tough and you generally won’t have to replace them during the treatment period.
  • Retainersare most susceptible to wearing out and may need replacement at some point.

Types of  tooth retainer

There are three types of dental retainers including the permanent retainer, clear plastic retainer, and Hawley retainer.

Permanent retainer

Permanent retainer

The permanent retainer also called fixed or bonded retainer is a thin metal wire that glued to the back of the upper or lower front teeth. This type of tooth retainer bond in place with cement by your dentist. It is not recommended for all patients.


The most important advantage of permanent retainer is that you don’t have to remove them. So they are also less likely to be damaged or lost.

They are more comfortable for some people because there are no pieces to get in while you are chewing or talking. Most of the time you forget that you have an orthodontic retainer in your mouth. Since they are glued to the back of your teeth, others can’t find that you are wearing a permanent retainer.


All the time you have a permanent retainer in your mouth including brushing, flossing, and eating. It needs stricter oral hygiene. It is difficult to floss with a permanent retainer the same as braces. You should use a thinner floss for proper cleaning.

Since food particles can stick in your dental retainer wire, there is a risk of building up plaque and even gum disease if you don’t brush your teeth after each meal. There is still the possibility of a very little movement with permanent tooth retainer because the wire is thin and flexible so, your teeth may move slightly.

Clear plastic retainer

Clear plastic retainer

It is a custom made, removable appliance that is made of clear plastic. It also called Essix retainer. Clear plastic retainer is the most comfortable, protective and accurate tooth retainer which fit easily over the teeth and prevent of teeth movement.


The most important advantage of a clear plastic retainer is removability. You can remove them for eating or cleaning. So it is very easy to clean. They are shaped for each tooth, so they are best to prevent movement. More addition, they are invisible and others can’t find you are wearing a dental retainer.


Clear plastic retainers are more expensive and less durable compared to the other types of tooth retainers. It is not a good option for people who used to grind their teeth, play a contact sport or can’t care about their retainer properly.

Even with proper care, you have to renew your orthodontic retainer annually because of normal wear and tear. Some toothpaste can cause a scratch on clear plastic retainer. On the other hand, these thin plastic retainers between your teeth can change your bite slightly. Because of that many orthodontists don’t prefer to use them.

Hawley retainer

Hawley retainer

It is the most common removable appliance which made of metal and acrylic. The metal wires fit around the teeth and hold them in a proper position.


There is a wide variety of color for Hawley retainer and you can choose your desired color. If you care of your Hawley retainers properly, they last for a long time. They don’t scratch or stain so you can have the same teeth retainers for many years. You are able to remove them for eating and cleaning and clean them with proper toothbrush and toothpaste.


Since Hawley retainers fit in front of the teeth, they are visible in your mouth.

They may cause more saliva and you speak a bit different at first with Hawley retainers. If you don’t clean your Hawley retainer properly, it may lead to growing colonies of bacteria.

How to install retainers?

To install retainers, dentist will get the impressions of the patient’s teeth. The patient will be advised to return once the retainers are ready.

The process of installing retainers is fairly simple, but may be a bit more complicated if fixed retainers are involved as these have to be cemented behind the teeth.

If removable retainers are to be used, the patient will be given strict instructions on how to properly wear, remove and wear the retainers again until the patient gets used to it. Generally, removable retainers are worn the same way, which follows the steps below:

  • Hold the retainer properly, with the arch points facing forward, and check on its quality and condition.
  • Put the retainer over the appropriate row of teeth inside the mouth
  • Push the retainer so that it fits into place.
    Generally, retainers do not cause pain or discomfort, unless some complications arise.

How Often Do You Have to Wear A Retainer?

dentists typically recommend that patients wear their retainer after school and at night for two months after having their braces removed. After that, they wear their retainer every night. Remember, your teeth will stay in place only if you continue to wear your retainer as prescribed! If you don’t want to have lengthy orthodontic treatment again, then remember to wear your retainer.

Why Are Retainers Necessary? 

Retainers are very important…especially if you don’t want to have braces again! dentists can align your teeth and move them where you need to, but after your braces come off you still need something in place to stabilize all that progress braces made. Teeth can shift throughout your life. Any small force over time can cause small shifts in alignment and placement, and those small shifts can lead to bigger shifts. Retainers help prevent these shifts from occurring after braces are removed.

Braces and Retainers for Adults, Not Just Kids!

Braces and Retainers for Adults, Not Just Kids

Braces and retainers are quite common for kids, usually between the ages of 10 – 12 when all of their baby teeth have fallen out and their adult teeth are coming in. The last teeth that typically grow in are the 12-year molars, but they sometimes come in a little earlier.

More and adults are interested in getting braces or retainers to fix alignment or spacing issues with their teeth. You’re never too old to get braces, and if you’re hesitant to get braces because you don’t like the look of them there are invisible braces options that are far less noticeable than what you might think!

wearing retainers instructions

Important information on wearing retainers:

  • Wear your retainer at all times, until the doctor instructs otherwise.
  • Take your retainer out when eating, and always put it back in its case! (Most appliances are lost in school lunchrooms or restaurants.)
  • When your retainer is not in your mouth, it should ALWAYS be in its case. Pets love to chew on them!
  • Initially, you may find it difficult to speak. Practice speaking, reading, or singing out loud to get used to it faster.
  • Retainers are breakable, so treat yours with care. If your retainer gets lost or broken, call us immediately.
  • Always bring your retainer to your appointments.
  • Remove your retainer when you go swimming.
  • Keep retainers away from hot water, hot car dashboards, pockets, the washing machine, and napkins.

Cleaning tips for tooth retainer

Cleaning tips for tooth retainer

Following are some dental care tips to clean your tooth retainer in order to increase the life of your retainer:

  • Clean the retainer thoroughly once a day with a toothbrush water. Use warm but not hot water. Brushing retainers removes the plaque, and eliminates odors. orthodontic appliance cleaners can be used but do not take the place of brushing for the clear retainers, but should not be used with metal retainers.
  • Try to soak your retainer when you are not wearing them to avoid drying out.
  • Avoid eating sticky and hard things to prevent breakage.
  • Don’t wash your retainer with hot water and don’t put them near a heat source in order to prevent warping.
  • You can ask your dental hygienist use ultrasonic cleaning to blast away dental calculus deposits that are difficult to remove on your own.

Generally, for achieving the best results after your orthodontic treatment you need to wear a retainer. Since you may have to wear a retainer for some months or even years, you should choose the best type that is proper for your condition. A good specialist orthodontist can guide you to choose the right option and explain to you about its advantages and disadvantages.