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Dental retainers are often used by orthodontists as the last stage of an orthodontic treatment. Most commonly, as the final step after wearing braces or Invisalign®.

The retainer helps to maintain the teeth straightening and bite correction achieved during orthodontic treatment. It also minimises the natural shifting of the teeth, which can occur after braces are removed. Wearing retainers after the braces are removed will help to remind your teeth to stay in their new positions and maintain your new straightened smile.

Types of retainers

There are commonly two types of dental retainers; removable and fixed.

The most prescribed removable retainer resembles a clear, plastic mouthguard. These retainers can be easily taken off and put back on again in the same fashion. In some cases, you might be given a removable plate retainer with a wire. The wire is fixed to an acrylic plate that sits comfortably at the roof of the mouth and can be taken on and off in a similar way as a clear moulded retainer. The great thing about removable retainers is that they can be taken off to accommodate eating and cleaning.

The other type of retainer is a fixed or bonded retainer. These retainers adhere to the back of your teeth with a type of dental filling material and are often used in cases where the teeth are more likely to experience shifting or crowding. In this case, you will have a single, thin wire cemented to the back of the teeth to keep them in place long-term, often permanently.

Types of retainers

What to expect from your orthodontic retainer

If your orthodontist recommends a removable retainer, you will first have a mould taken of your teeth. This will create a comfortable, custom retainer that will fit your new teeth like a glove. The retainer will then be fitted over your teeth. Immediately after you wear your new retainer, you may experience some pressure as your mouth adjusts. This is normal and will subside once you grow used to it. If your retainer begins to cut or rub on your gums, inform your orthodontist as it may require further adjustment.

If you are prescribed a plate retainer with a wire, then you will be given a demonstration on how to fit it and remove it as well as how to properly clean it. You may also experience some discomfort from these retainers for the first few days as you get used to them.

With a fixed retainer, a wire will be bonded to the back of your teeth using dental cement which is hardened under a special curing light. This will only take a few minutes and is painless. Fixed retainers will also need to be looked after, so usually your orthodontist or oral health therapist will show you how to keep them clean.

Do you have to wear a retainer forever?

This will depend on how long you want to keep your teeth straight for. If it is forever then wearing retainers will need to be forever too! For the first couple of weeks, you often have to wear a removable retainer 24/7 (but it can be taken out for eating and brushing teeth). For patients prescribed a removable retainer, you can expect to wear it every night for 6-12 months but it can be shorter or longer depending on your specific treatment plan. After that, you will only have to wear them a few nights a week.

If you are prescribed a fixed/bonded retainer, you can expect to wear it for life. However, the bond used for fixed retainers is very strong and most patients will find their wire remaining in place for years, even decades, after their treatment. Fixed retainers are a permanent solution. While the thought of this might frighten you, rest assured that aside from keeping your teeth fixed straight, they are unnoticeable. Most patients forget they are there and are not affected or compromised by their presence.

Adult orthodontist

What to do if your retainer breaks or is lost?

As retainers are required for life please contact our practice to plan an appointment to have your retainer repaired or remade, even if it has been some time since we last saw you for a regular retention check-up.

What is the purpose of retainers?

Retainers help hold the teeth in the final position after braces are taken off. With a retainer, you are helping your teeth to stay straight by preventing the movement that naturally occurs after braces or Invisalign. Teeth regularly need to be reminded of their new position, so using a retainer after teeth straightening is a way of holding the teeth in their new position. Retainers are crucial to your orthodontic success, and can also help you to form a new dental hygiene routine following braces.

How much does a retainer cost?

The cost of a retainer is generally affordable for most patients. Depending on your treatment plan and type of retainer, you can expect to pay from anywhere between $100 - $400. A permanent retainer cost can be slightly higher, from $150 - $500. In most cases, the cost of your retainer will be included in your overall orthodontic plan. At Smile Team Orthodontics, we work with our patients to ensure their treatment is affordable. We help you to achieve your perfect smile by offering a range of flexible payment plans. We accept payment of cash, cheque, Visa, MasterCard, Amex and EFT.

Which is better - braces or retainer?

Braces and retainers both have their importance in an orthodontic treatment plan. Where braces are used to align and straighten the teeth over the course of a few months to a few years, retainers are used as a type of post-braces aftercare to help the teeth maintain their alignment.

If you are unsure whether a retainer is right for you, contact us today or visit one of our Smile Team locations in Wollongong, Shellharbour, Southern Highlands, and Parramatta.

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