Did a dentist recommend a retainer for your teeth or your child? If used properly, retainers can benefit oral health. However, there’s a lot to know when it comes to retainers, and it’s important to explore the best option before buying one for you or your child.
What Are Retainers For?
Retainers are used to close gaps in teeth, help speech problems, or to solve certain oral problems. Retainers are commonly used to avoid shifting after braces are removed. They can also help with other medical conditions beyond shifting such as tongue thrust, temporomandibular disorder (TMD), and grinding or clenching of the teeth (bruxism).
How Do Retainers Work?
Retainers are designed to fit over the teeth to hold them in place and are custom-made to accommodate your child’s needs. No two retainers are the same. The most common reason for retainers is to help control shifting, which occurs naturally.
Types of Retainers:
There are several types of retainers to choose from. Your child’s dentist or orthodontist will recommend the type of retainer that will be most effective. There are removable or fixed retainers, or a combination of the two.
Removable retainers are the kind that are not worn all the time and can be taken out. The most common removable retainer is the “Hawley” retainer. The Hawley retainer is a thin, tongue-shaped piece of acrylic molded to fit a child’s mouth, with a wire that holds your child’s teeth in place. The hard plastic-like part of a Hawley retainer covers the roof of the mouth or behind the lower front teeth. This part can be personalized with a variety of different colors and patterns for your child to choose from. Because it is removable, this type of retainer makes it easier for your child to clean their teeth. One disadvantage of the Hawley retainer is that it can be misplaced or damaged and even melt if it is exposed to heat. It is important to remind your child to always place their retainer back in its case so it does not get lost or damaged.
Another removable retainer is the clear aligner-type. These retainers are custom-made of thin, transparent plastic designed to fit over the teeth. An obvious advantage to this style is it is invisible and wireless. However, just like the Hawley retainer it can be lost easily and is at risk of damage if it is not placed in its case after removal.
A fixed retainer is typically a thin wire that stretches across the tongue-side of the lower or upper front teeth. This wire is bonded in place with a cement similar to that applied on the brackets of braces. Fixed retainers are placed and removed by your child’s orthodontist. An advantage of fixed retainers is that they hold teeth in place all the time. A disadvantage of fixed retainers is that it’s harder to clean between teeth.
FAQ Related to Retainers:
1. How long should my child wear a retainer?
A child will receive a prescription for retainer wear. This will detail when to wear them and for how long. Follow the prescription for best results.
2. How do you clean a retainer?
Due to the bacteria, plaque, and leftover food particles that also live in the mouth retainers should be cleaned daily. Removable retainers can be cleaned with toothpaste before it is put in and after it is removed. There is also effervescent cleanser that can be used. Fixed retainers can be brushed and flossed. A floss threader or similar cleaning devices used for braces can be used to clean between the teeth.
3. How much do retainers cost?
Ask your child’s dentist about different price options for the kind of retainers your child may need.