What Is A Retainer?

What Is A Retainer?


A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that may be worn for a variety of purposes. The primary use of retainers is to hold the teeth in position following braces or other orthodontic treatment. Orthodontics involves shifting or repositioning the teeth in the mouth. After being realigned, the teeth can easily shift back to their original positions until the gum tissue and ligaments tighten down and the teeth settle into place. Retainers ensure that the teeth settle into their new, correct position in the mouth. 

Types of Retainers

There are 3 main types of retainers: 

  • Hawley. A hawley retainer is made of both plastic and metal. The plastic portion fits against the soft tissue of your mouth and the metal part wraps around the front side of your teeth. 
  • Essix. An essix retainer is all plastic. It is usually clear and fits over your teeth, similar to Invisalign or other clear aligners. 
  • Bonded. A bonded retainer is made of metal and is permanently attached to the back side of your teeth so that it is not visible. The biggest benefit of a bonded retainer is that you can’t lose it. 

The type of retainer that is recommended for you depends on a few factors, such as the type of orthodontic treatment you received and your individual needs. 

Treatments that Require Retainers

You may need to wear retainers after any of the following procedures and treatments: 

  • Braces. After getting your braces off you will need to wear retainers. You’ll need to wear them all the time for the first few months and then just at night to help your teeth stay in position. 
  • Invisalign. After you have worn all of your Invisalign aligners and you and your orthodontist are satisfied with your results, you’ll need to wear retainers to maintain your results. 
  • Oral surgery. Following some types of oral surgery you may need to wear retainers. Tooth extractions sometimes require retainers to hold places open for permanent teeth to come in. Jaw surgery may require retainers to maintain the desired position of the jaw. Retainers can even be worn to protect the soft tissues of your mouth following surgery. 

The Importance of Wearing Your Retainers 

Orthodontic treatment is necessary for some children, teens, and adults whose teeth or bite need to be realigned. The process of realigning the teeth can take many months and often years. Wearing your retainers following orthodontic treatment helps to maintain your results. Not wearing them can allow your teeth to shift back to the original position, causing you to lose the progress you made. You may even have to get your braces put back on to recoup your previous progress. 

How to Care for Your Retainers

It is important to take good care of your retainers so that they will last. Rinse them off whenever you take them out and store them in the provided case. Never wrap them in a tissue or napkin that can easily be mistaken for trash. Don’t set them on your plate or tray when eating, because you are likely to throw them away accidentally or rinse them down the garbage disposal which will damage them. 

Brush your retainers with a soft bristled toothbrush (different from the one you use on your teeth) and clear, unscented soap. Don’t use toothpaste because it is abrasive and will scratch the plastic portion of your retainers. If you have bonded retainers, brush them carefully when you brush your teeth to prevent plaque from gathering around them. 

Signature Orthodontics Provides Retainers 

Retainers are an important part of your orthodontic care. Signature Orthodontics provides retainers following any orthodontic treatment that requires maintenance. We also replace lost or damaged retainers when needed. 
Call 651-426-9986 today to schedule or request an appointment.