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Permanent or Removable Retainers – How Do You Decide?

Essix and Hawley Retainers

You have your beautiful smile, now you need to choose how to retain it–permanent or removable retainers or a combination of both? How do you decide? Don’t worry! Our Belmar Orthodontics team is very experienced at helping our patients choose which method of aftercare will work best for your needs. Patient education is very important to us. We will give you all the advantages and disadvantages of both methods and then you can decide.  One thing is for sure, your beautiful new smile will be something you will want to retain–forever!

Yes, You Need a Retainer

Regardless of the type of orthodontic treatment you receive, following treatment it is necessary to wear a retainer in order to retain your smile.  Newly aligned teeth want to return to their former position. They need time to adjust to their new position and into the soft tissue and jawbone that house them. During the first month after your braces are removed, your risk of movement is very high. Teeth can take up to a year to stabilize following treatment. If there were gaps between your teeth prior to orthodontic treatment, your adjustment period can be even longer. The last thing you want is for your teeth to shift after the dedication and expense you have invested in your orthodontic treatment.

How Long Will I Need to Wear a Retainer?

One of the most common questions we are asked from our patients following orthodontic treatment is how long will I need to wear my retainer. Our typical response is, that you need to wear a retainer for as long as you want your teeth to remain straight.  Natural physiological drift happens to all of us as we get older which causes teeth movement. This movement is related to changes to the width of our smiles which narrow as we get older, causing our teeth to crowd. There are many factors that influence how long a patient needs to wear their retainers which we can discuss with you during your post-treatment consultation.

What Types of Retainers Do You Offer?

Belmar Orthodontics uses both fixed and removable types of retainers.  We work with you to decide which option will fit your needs and lifestyle the best.

Removable Retainers

The two most common types of removable retainers are Hawley and Essix retainers. Both types of retainers are designed specifically to fit the patient’s mouth through dental molds that are taken following treatment. Hawley retainers are stainless steel retainers that are kept in place by a wire that wraps around your teeth and an acrylic arch that rests closely against the roof of your mouth. Essix retainers are an invisible option, made of clear plastic so that they can be worn without anyone noticing.  

Fixed Retainers

Fixed retainers are just as the name describes. They are not removable, but bonded to the back of some of your teeth to prevent them from moving. The great thing about permanent retainers is that once they are bonded to your teeth you don’t have to worry about removing them, keeping track of them, or altering your diet. Since they are fixed to your teeth 100 percent of the time, you have less chance of your teeth moving back to the position they were in before. The other advantage is that they are affixed to the back of your teeth, invisible to those you interact with.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Type of Retainer

Both types of retainers, fixed and removable, have advantages and disadvantages.  Fixed retainers can make flossing more challenging because of the wire obstruction. Floss threaders will be needed for effective cleaning. Food can get trapped more easily behind a fixed retainer so you need to be dedicated to thorough cleaning so that plaque doesn’t have a chance to build-up and cause decay. Being dedicated to making and keeping your scheduled dental cleanings will help you keep those teeth that are bonded to your retainer healthy. Removable retainers make oral hygiene habits a breeze. With the Essix system, you can still have that invisible look when you are wearing them. But, removable retainers are not for the forgetful! Removable retainers need to be removed before you eat, play sports and other activities which means they can get lost if you aren’t careful. Hawley retainers have a metal wire on the outside of your teeth that is visible to others, so if you aren’t wanting your retainer to be seen, it may not be the option for you.

A Combination Approach

Some patients opt for a fixed, bonded retainer behind the upper teeth and the lower teeth, but then also have removable retainers made to wear when they sleep. This is another option you can choose if you like certain aspects of each system. Again, counseling with Dr. Hardy about the method you are most comfortable with can help with the decision-making process. We will work with you to help you make a choice that is effective yet easy for you to use.

Schedule a Consultation to Learn More

The best way to find out how Belmar Orthodontics superior orthodontic technology can help you achieve your goals with your retainers is to schedule an appointment for an in-office consultation. Dr. Hardy can talk with you about your goals and come up with an effective treatment plan to help you achieve them.  Contact our office today at 303.225.9016. We are excited to meet you and help you reach your smile goals!