Orthodontic treatments and appliances are used to effectively deal with issues of improperly aligned teeth, so that the affected teeth are moved to a more properly aligned, or straighter, position. Orthodontic appliances such as metal braces work by exerting force so that crooked teeth are moved to their desired position over a specified period of time, with the time frame depending on the severity of the problems with teeth alignment, and the type of orthodontic appliance or treatment used.
After the wires and brackets of the orthodontic appliance are removed from the teeth – when the desired teeth straightening results have been achieved – it is important to maintain the proper alignment of teeth, to ensure that they will not relapse to their previously crooked state. This phase is called the retention phase, and may sometimes be the time when the gums and other tissues surrounding the teeth are still adjusting to the new, proper alignment positions. Retainers are needed during this retention phase, to ensure that the teeth do not go back to their old misaligned positions.
What are Retainers?
Retainers are custom-made orthodontic appliances that are usually worn after the removal or orthodontic braces, to ensure that the teeth do not go back to their original or previously misaligned position. It is important to wear your retainers in the manner and frequency that your dentist instructs you with, to ensure that your teeth will retain their properly aligned positions – and so your teeth will not go back to their previous crooked position.
Types of Retainers
Hawley Retainer (Removable) – The Hawley retainer is a removable type of retainer made up of a metal wire that surrounds the front part of the teeth to keep them in their desired position; this metal wire is then attached to an acrylic arch that is positioned against the roof of the mouth (also called the palate). The metal wire can be adjusted as needed, to either finish the whole orthodontic treatment process or to ensure that the teeth stay in their properly aligned position. As Hawley retainers are removable, they are easy to clean – and makes overall dental hygiene easier to maintain.
Invisible or Vacuform Retainers – Made of clear plastic, and covers all parts of the teeth in a given arch. Due to the clear features of this type of retainer, it is considered to be more aesthetically pleasing, since it provides the necessary orthodontic help in a very discreet manner. Those who are not too keen on having obvious retainers can benefit a lot from the invisible or vacuform styles. Invisible retainer can also be removed with ease whenever necessary, so it is easy to keep them (and the rest of the teeth) clean.
Fixed Retainers – Usually involves the attachment of a passive wire on the inner surfaced of the front teeth (the side closest to the tongue area). This type of retainer is ideal for maintaining the properly aligned position of the incisors; however, as the name suggests, they cannot be removed – which may make cleaning a little more challenging to do.