Preserving and stabilizing the result of your orthodontic treatment is known as “retention” and the appliances used for this purpose are called “retainers”. Almost every individual who has undergone orthodontic care will need to wear some type of a retainer to ensure that teeth remain in position.
There are two major kinds of orthodontic retainers. Removable retainers that can be taken in and out of the mouth and “permanent" or bonded (fixed) retainers that are secured to the back of the front teeth. Dr. Robert Shpuntoff recommends the use of removable retainers nighttime for a lifetime.
It is important to know that permanent retainers require extra daily care to keep the teeth and gums around the appliance clean and healthy.
It is not unusual for a patient with "permanent" retainers to complain that their teeth have shifted. Permanent retainers are not permanent and wear out.
When patients are given bonded “permanent” retainers, Dr. Robert Shpuntoff still recommends the use of removable retainers at night to minimize this problem.
Removable retainers come in two forms. One is the Hawley retainer, an acrylic based appliance with a single wire that sits in front of the teeth to maintain the corrections along with some small clasps to stabilize it in the mouth. The other type of removable retainer is a vacuform “invisible” retainer, which is often called an “Essix” retainer. This retainer looks similar to a clear custom bleaching tray or dental aligner like Invisalign*. It is custom made of a thin transparent plastic that is fabricated to precisely fit over the teeth and prevent any unwanted shifting. While a Hawley retainer has the advantages of being quite durable and easy to adjust, an Essix retainer is less visible and can be easier to adapt to wearing.
Retainers work best when they fit properly and are not wearing out. After your first 12 months of retainer visits, Dr. Shpuntoff recommends that you have visits at least once a year to review your retainers and orthodontic results.