Types of Retainers
Before your braces are removed, we will discuss the different types of retainers. Together we will determine which retainer will be the best choice for you. The first type of retainer is a permanent retainer, also known as a bonded or fixed retainer. This is a small wire bonded or glued on the back side of the lower six front teeth and/or the upper four front teeth. The word "permanent" refers to the fact that you cannot remove the retainer from your mouth on a daily basis, as is possible with a removable retainer; however, if desired, you have the option of removing the permanent retainer at a later date. There are several advantages of a permanent retainer. Little or no period of adjustment is needed when eating and speaking, you don’t have to remember to put it in, and it is virtually invisible. The downside of permanent retainers is that excellent oral hygiene is needed to prevent the build-up of plaque, and proper diet is important to prevent tooth decay and avoid breaking the permanent retainer.
The second type of retainer is a removable retainer. There are two types to choose from – a clear retainer and a Hawley retainer. Clear retainers are made from a thin clear plastic material that contributes to both their aesthetic appearance, and the minimal time needed to become adjusted while wearing them. However, the thin clear plastic material is also the main reason clear retainers tend to wear out within a few months to a few years and require more frequent replacement than Hawley retainers. Hawley retainers are what many think of as the "traditional" retainers worn after braces are removed. They consist of a hard material called acrylic in combination with stainless steel wires. The hard acrylic portion can be customized to almost any color or style you can imagine. Hawley retainers are not as aesthetically pleasing as clear retainers, and patients generally need more time to adjust to them because of the metal wires. Even with those minor drawbacks, the durability of Hawley retainers makes them an excellent choice for retention, especially when you consider that retainers need to be worn at night indefinitely to help maintain the position of your teeth. If worn as instructed and properly cared for, Hawley retainers can last for decades.