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Types of Orthodontic Retainers

An orthodontic retainer is an appliance that keeps your teeth in place after treatment with dental braces. For more information about orthodontic retainers, check out this article. In here, we will discuss the different types retainers your dentist may recommend and how each one work.

Removable Orthodontic Retainers

Retainers are classified as either removable or fixed. Which one work better depends on the wants, needs, and compliance of the patient.

Removable retainers are more commonly used. They usually consist of plastic or a combination of wire and acrylic material. The wire may run across the front or back surface of the teeth.

The main advantage of removable retainers is that they much easier to clean, owing to the fact that you can remove them from your teeth whenever you want to.

The disadvantage, however, is that it relies on patient compliance and there’s a chance that some patients won’t wear it as prescribed by their orthodontist. It also gets lost easily, especially you if leave it lying around and wrapped in a tissue. You can have it replaced, but you will have to spend as much as $300 for the new one.

There two most common popular examples of removable retainers are the Hawley and Essix retainers.

Hawley appliance is probably the most common type of retainer you see. It is a combination of acrylic and metal wires.

The wires are formed into clasps, which are then anchored to the acrylic body that sits on the palate. These clasps grasp the teeth to keep the retainer secured in place.

Hawley retainers are adjustable, and can thus be used to further improve the alignment of your teeth.

Essix retainers look pretty much like Invisalign aligners, and are therefore most suitable for those who have had that type of orthodontic treatment.

These retainers are made of clear plastic, and hence cannot be seen when worn. They are constructed by your orthodontist using a mold of your teeth and a vacuum appliance. Unlike Hawley retainers, Essix retainers are non-adjustable.

Fixed Orthodontic Retainers

Fixed retainers, on the other hand, are usually made of a thin wire that runs across the back of the teeth.

It is bonded or cemented in place using the same material applied on your brackets. Compared to removable retainers, fixed retainers are quite more difficult to clean, so special cleaning aids are prescribed to keep the both the retainer and your teeth free from plaque buildup.

But their biggest advantage is that they tend to produce better outcome because they hold your teeth in place 24/7.

In short, patient compliance is not a problem. Another advantage is that since the wire is at the back of the teeth, it will appear like you’re not wearing a retainer at all.

Regardless of the type of orthodontic retainer that you use, it is advised that you do routine dental visits to ensure periodic maintenance of the appliance and also to check if your retainer is working or you need another one.