Retainers After Braces | Richmond Orthodontist | Elara Orthodontics

About Retainers

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What are retainers and why do we need them?

After the journey of braces is over and you achieve your beautiful smile, it is very critical that you maintain your new smile. Teeth naturally move or shift over your lifetime whether you have gone through braces or not. However, there is a higher chance of unwanted tooth movement right after braces, and this is due to the “Relapse” phenomenon. Relapse is the tendency for the teeth to return to their pre-orthodontic treatment position, which means that if your teeth were rotated a certain way prior to having braces, they will try to move back to their rotated or crooked positions. To prevent any orthodontic relapse and maintain the position of corrected teeth, after braces are removed you are stepping to a very important phase which is called “Retention”.

In other words, no orthodontic treatment is completed without taking post-braces care into consideration. In this maintenance stage, after teeth have been properly aligned and straightened by braces, retainers are used to hold the teeth in the new positions to allow for new bone and periodontal tissue to grow around the teeth and help maintain them in their new position. It’s a process that takes a long time, and despite this new bone growth, you may still need to wear retainers for a long time.


It’s important to remember that if retainers are not worn properly, relapse will occur and teeth will return half-way, or even all the way to the original misaligned position, affecting the perfect smile you have spent time, and money to attain!

Retainers are custom made appliances that are fabricated for each individual to fit their teeth and mouth. Retainers will apply just enough pressure to hold the teeth in their new position while allowing them to settle in the new bite. When you are at the end of your treatment and ready for removing your braces, your orthodontist will prescribe a retainer for you.

Traditionally, we would take impressions for molding your teeth prior to fabricating the retainer in the lab. At Elara Orthodontics, we are all about being up to date with our technology, and with the use of our intra oral scanner we stay away from gooey molding materials and provide more comfort for our patients.

Intra oral scanners capture 3D picture of your teeth that with the help of 3D printers will be transformed to a 3D model and retainers are made based on those models. This process will prevent any possible distortion and will result in a highly accurate and improved fit of the retainer.  On the day that braces are removed, retainers are delivered and can be adjusted if necessary. Your orthodontist will review how to wear your retainer and how to take care of your retainers with you. Depending on the type of orthodontic treatment that was performed for you and the severity of tooth movement with braces, you will be instructed to wear your retainer full time for at least 3-6 months, and you will gradually switch to night-time wear only.

Nowadays, there are many places where you can get DIY (Do It Yourself) retainers that can seem like they cost less compared to orthodontist-fabricated ones, however, it’s important that you consult your orthodontist before pursuing that option to make sure they are right for you. DIY retainers are not always made from materials that are durable or accurate enough, therefore it’s important to check the quality of the product you may be receiving.



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How to take care of retainers

When you receive your retainer, it is really essential to follow the instructions as provided by your orthodontist. For removable retainers, since you will be popping them in and out a couple of times a day, you need to make sure you are not applying extra force and in a wrong direction that break or distort the retainer.

Removable retainers need to be removed before eating or drinking any hot beverages. These retainers are normally advised to be removed using two index fingers to pull the retainer down for the upper retainer and pull up for the lower retainer anchoring from the back of the retainer. When removing Hawley retainers, you should not pull on the front wire to take them off, as that will cause a distortion in the wire and can end up loosening your retainer. After each removal and after you eat, you need to brush and floss your teeth and rinse your retainer before putting it back on. You can brush the retainer with a soft bristle toothbrush and water. To remove the stains on your retainer and to obtain a deeper cleaning, you can consider soaking the retainer in denture or retainer cleaner tablets for couple of times a week.

After removing your retainer make sure you:

  • Place it back in the retainer case.
  • Do not wrap it in napkin as it can be mistaken for trash and thrown away.
  • Do not drop it in your purse or pocket to prevent damaging or distorting your retainer.
  • Keep it out of reach of pets especially dogs, as they are attracted to the smell of retainer and they can chew them.

Fixed retainers are not removable, therefore there is no concern about how to wear them or remove them. However, with permanent retainers, maintaining oral hygiene, brushing and flossing properly is very essential and important, interproximal brush and floss threaders are helpful tools for that.

Can retainers move teeth?

This is a question that we get asked quite often regarding whether orthodontic retainers are able to move teeth. Since retainers are a custom-made appliance, you can technically design a retainer that contains springs or other auxiliaries that can move teeth in a very minor and specific fashion. Those retainers are different from the traditional ones and are called “Active Retainers”. Active retainers can only move a few teeth at a time, and to a very limited degree since it applies forces directly on the teeth without braces rendering it less predictable. We sometimes utilize active retainers to solve very minor tooth rotations that might occur due to misplaced retainers, or patients forgetting to wear their retainers long enough after finishing their treatment.


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