Retainers are oral devices, custom fit for you mouth, used to correct crooked teeth or bites. They can be made of metal or plastic. Most often, retainers are used after someone has worn braces, in order to keep teeth straight and in place. They are normally prescribed to be worn at night, but in some cases, may need to be worn during the day too.
Two Main Kinds of Retainers
- Hawley Retainer – This retainer was invented by Charles Hawley and is the most common type, where a metal wire surrounds the upper level of teeth to hold them into place. The wire is attached to an acrylic mold that sits in the roof of the mouth. More recently, this same type of retainer has a clear wire option for aesthetic purposes.
- Vacuum-Formed Retainer – This retainer is a hard, clear, plastic mold of your teeth, that fits over the entire arch of the tooth. Through subtle reshaping of this retainer, the orthodontist can gradually move teeth into place.
Why Wearing A Retainer is So Important
Although most retainers are prescribed to people after they get their braces removed, there are also other reasons for needing a retainer. In some cases, if just one tooth needs to be moved, then you can use a retainer to do the job, instead of braces. Another reason for a retainer may be if you have a gap between teeth and need the gap to be closed. Furthermore, that retainer will then work to keep the gap between those teeth closed.
Retainers may also be used to help correct a bite, or if the teeth don’t meet properly when the jaw is closed. You may also grind your teeth at night, which can cause severe headaches.
Getting Fitted For & Wearing A Retainer
Your orthodontist will fit you for a retainer by taking a mold of your teeth. This is a soft material that takes about a minute and is painless and tasteless. Sometimes, you can choose a design for the part of the retainer that fits in the roof of your mouth, or it can stay pink-flesh color. In about a week, you can come back to try out the final product. It may feel tight at first, but within a few days of wearing it, it should feel normal.
Taking Care of Your Retainer
Because retainers live in our mouth, along with food and bacteria, your retainer should be cleaned every day. Consult with your orthodontist about how you should clean it, but certain options include, brushing it with toothpaste, or using denture cleaner. Because plastic can warp easily, do not put your retainer under hot water. The wires should not be bent, and the retainer should not be flipped around in the mouth. Lastly, because retainers are expensive, be careful not to lose it, and keep it in its case when it is not in your mouth!
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