Getting your braces removed can be a tremendously exciting experience. After so much time and effort, you are finally free of the metal (or plastic invisalign trays) and able to enjoy your new smile. However, many people still need to wear a retainer for a period of time. This keeps your new smile looking its best, preventing your teeth from re-shifting into their former position. There are two types of retainers, fixed and removable, each with its own pros and cons. Your dentist will help you decide which is best for you.

Retainers after braces

Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is a thin wire stretched along your top or bottom front teeth and cemented similarly to braces. The wire is placed behind your teeth so it is not visible when you smile and talk.  You will need to use a special flosser like the one you used with your braces to be sure your teeth are squeaky clean underneath the wire. Although it takes a bit of extra work, a fixed retainer is the best way to retain your perfect smile, since it keeps your teeth constantly bonded in place.

Fixed retainers are also an excellent choice for those who are prone to losing or forgetting things. Since it never comes out of your mouth, you never have to remember to put it back in. This can be a definite advantage for teens and busy adults.

Removable Retainers

There are two types of removable retainers:  1) the first type is comprised of a wire across the front of your front teeth that hooks or clasps to your back teeth to keep it in place. The wire is usually fitted in plastic material to give it better stability. 2) the second type is a clear plastic tray that fits over your teeth (similar to an Invisalign tray).  

The major benefit of a removable retainer is that it makes your teeth easier to clean, because you can simply remove it to brush and floss as normal.

The main disadvantage of a removable retainer is that it can be easy to forget to put it back in. Your dentist will probably want you to wear it around the clock for a few months, and then for a few hours per day or overnight after that. Ask for detailed instructions, and follow them exactly for the best results.

Consider investing a few dollars in a plastic retainer case to keep it safe. It is easy to lose a retainer that is wrapped in tissues or paper towels, and retainers can be damaged by heat or pets. A case will also prevent you from dropping it in an inopportune location or accidentally throwing it away with a lunch tray.

Retainer Maintenance

A retainer is fairly easy to maintain as long as you stay on top of it. Never use regular toothpaste on a removable retainer, as it can encourage bacterial growth and dull the acrylic. Instead, use a vinegar and water solution or soap and water to clean your retainer periodically. If you have a fixed retainer, you can brush your teeth as normal, using regular toothpaste. Be sure to clean around the wire with a special flossing tool.

Regardless of which type of retainer you have, you will need to see the dentist on a regular basis to check the positioning of your teeth and make sure that you do not develop cavities. In addition, if you have a fixed retainer, your dental hygienist will carefully clean around it to ensure that no plaque or tartar has the opportunity to develop.

Getting your braces off is an exciting day, but the process of maintaining your new smile is just beginning. Wearing a retainer lets you make the most of your investment by ensuring that your teeth remain straight and even. Follow your dentist’s instructions closely, protect your removable retainer with its own case, and pay strict attention to oral hygiene. Taking care of your retainer really is a small price to pay for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

At Family Dental Care of Bellevue, we are committed to providing quality dental care to our patients and their families. We are proud to have been voted one of the best dental offices in Washington State. If you are ready to take the first steps toward improving your dental health, we invite you to call 425-643-5778 today to make an appointment for your initial consultation.

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