There are many types of retainers but they all have the same function. They are used after your teeth have been straightened to keep them in the same position and prevent them from moving in the future.
We offer two of the most common types of retainers. Essix retainers, which are clear removable plastic retainers. These are very similar looking to Invisalign except that they don’t move your teeth, they only hold them in their position. And Bonded retainers, these are thin braided metal wires that are fixed to the back of your front teeth and are placed with the intention of keeping them there for as long as possible to prevent those teeth moving.
You are most likely to have the Essix retainers at the end of your treatment as standard and some patients may be advised to get a Bonded retainer as well as the Essix. The reason being is that the Essix retainer holds all of your teeth in position, while the bonded retainer can only be fixed to a maximum of 6 teeth. This would be from your (pointed) canine tooth on one side, across the front teeth over to the (pointed) canine tooth on the other side. It can’t be extended beyond the canine, which then allows the rest of your teeth to move, so it’s not ideal to have a Bonded retainer on it’s own.
If you haven’t had teeth out as part of your orthodontic treatment or you had a gap in between your front teeth before your braces, this indicates that your teeth are at higher risk of moving in the future. In these cases we may advise you to have the Bonded retainer and the plastic one. This means you will have the maximum protection to prevent them from moving in the future. Another reason we advise not to have a bonded retainer on it’s own would be in case it breaks. Sometimes you might not notice the wire is broken, you may only notice a difference when your teeth start to move and at this point it is too late to move your teeth back. You would either have to accept the new position and have a new retainer or have orthodontic treatment again to straighten the tooth/teeth. However, if you had both retainers, even if the wire broke your Essix retainer would prevent your teeth from moving and the broken wire could be picked up and repaired by your general dentist at one of your 6 monthly check ups.
Retainers are just as important as the braces and they are long term. After we remove your braces we will fit your retainers on the same day and advise you to the wear them (Essix retainer) full time. We will see you every 3-4 months for 1 year and continue to give you advice. On your last visit we usually advise you to continue wearing your Essix retainer 3-4 nights per week for as long you want to keep your teeth straight. The reason for this is that whether you have had orthodontic treatment or not, our teeth move naturally throughout our lives. Not huge amounts but incrementally, though it can be a noticeable difference. So, whether you had your braces off 5 or 15 years ago we still advise to wear your retainer a few nights per week to prevent this movement and guarantee your straight new smile.