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Need a Retainer? Read This First

Everything You Need to Know About Retainers

Having braces can be a drag. They’re rather conspicuous, and even when half of your classmates also have them, it’s kind of annoying. Plus you can’t chew gum while wearing them. But eventually, after anywhere from a few months to a few years, your braces will finally come off and reveal your perfectly-aligned new smile.

But after braces, you’ll need to wear a retainer. These are available as pieces of metal and plastic, or as clear aligners similar to Invisalign. Either way, you’ll need to wear them regularly for quite some time after your braces are removed. Here’s what you need to know about the types of retainers, and when you’ll need to wear them.

What Types of Retainers Are Available?

There are three main types of retainers for teeth that you’ll be able to choose from:

  • Hawley retainers, which are made from metal and acrylic, and are visible when worn;
  • Essix retainers, which are made from clear plastic;
  • Permanent retainers, which are non-removable and glued to the back of your teeth.

Hawley and Essix retainers are the most common. Hawley retainers are made from a wire that goes over your teeth, plus a custom fitted piece of acrylic that fits in the roof of your mouth. They’re adjustable, removable, and easy to clean. They come in a variety of colors, although the colored part is invisible when you’re wearing it. The downside is that the metal is visible, so they’re rather noticeable. It takes up less space than your metal braces did, but people can still see it.

Essix retainers are a popular alternative. Similar to an Invisalign aligner, they’re completely transparent and invisible when worn. However, they break more easily than Hawley retainers. An Essix retainer also doesn’t let your top and bottom teeth touch in a natural way, although you quickly get used to this. After a few years, they wear out and will need to be replaced.

Permanent retainers are less commonly used than removable Hawley and Essix retainers, but some people prefer them for this reason. They’re attached to the backs of your teeth, so they’re not readily visible. However, they can make it difficult to floss, and can cut your tongue if not properly fitted. The advantage is that because they’re not removable, you don’t need to worry about remembering to wear them.

How Long Will I Need to Wear My Retainer?

This is really common question about retainers for teeth. If you don’t wear them long enough, your teeth will shift out of place. This reversal process can happen quickly, so consistency is important. For about four months after your braces are removed, you’ll need to wear your retainers all the time, removing them only for meals.

But after wearing it almost 24/7 for a few months, you’ll be able to take it out during the day. However, it’s strongly recommended that you continue to wear it while you sleep for several years afterward. Many people who had braces in middle or high school continue to wear a retainer at night well into their college years. This combats your body’s natural tendency to shift your teeth back into their original positions.

If your retainer breaks, you can get a new one almost immediately, for a small fee.  No matter which type of retainer you use, retainers will be a part of your life for years to come.

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