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Retainers / Retention

What is an Orthodontic Retainer?

A retainer is a custom-made appliance that needs to be worn once you have finished straightening your teeth and have had your braces removed. This helps to prevent the chance of a relapse, where the straightened teeth will begin to return to their original positions. In addition retainers can also be used to treat minor orthodontic issues. Some retainers are removable while others are bonded into position on the inside of the teeth where they are virtually invisible. Some people may be recommended to wear more than one type of retainer to help prevent the chance of a relapse. Most people will need to wear a retainer all of the time for at least the first six months after having the braces removed. After this the retainer needs to be worn regularly, generally every night.

Why Is It Important to Wear a Retainer?

The reason why it’s so important is that even though the teeth have been straightened they won’t be completely settled into their new positions, as the surrounding bone, gums and facial muscles need to adapt to the changes that have been made. Additionally teeth can sometimes shift back into their original positions, even after they have been straightened quite some time ago. It is not uncommon for adults who had orthodontic treatment as children to find their teeth begin to shift position many years later, especially if they have been lax about wearing their retainer.

What Are the Different Types of Retainers?

There are three main types of retainers that are likely to be prescribed by your orthodontist. These are:

  • Essix Retainers – This is a popular type of removable retainer that looks a little like a clear plastic aligner tray. Essix retainers have no wires and are very unobtrusive. They are inexpensive and easy to wear and fit comfortably over the teeth. Most patients find them very easy to use.
  • Lingual Retainers – This type of retainer is bonded directly onto the lingual surfaces of your teeth. The lingual surfaces are the tooth surfaces nearest to the tongue. Some patients prefer this type of retainer as it is bonded permanently in the position eliminating the risk of forgetting to wear a retainer. People who use this type of retainer do need to take care when biting into foods as sometimes the bonding material used to fix the retainer in position can begin to break down.
  • Hawley Retainers – Hawley retainers are removable appliances that are made from a combination of orthodontic wires that are attached to an acrylic base. The acrylic base sits behind the teeth, while the retaining wires fit across the front of the teeth, holding them in position.

How Do I Care For My Retainer?

You will need to clean your retainer each time you remove it from your mouth. Hawley and Essix retainers can simply be brushed and rinsed. Lingual retainers need to be cleaned more carefully since they cannot be removed, you will probably need to spend some extra time brushing around this area.


  1. Visit us at the Zenith Orthodontic Centre to find out if a ceramic brace is the best choice for you.
  2. Next, your orthodontist will need to take impressions of your teeth in order to plan your treatment.
  3. When you return to your orthodontist to have your brace fitted, you’ll need to have your teeth thoroughly cleaned first.
  4. Your orthodontist will glue the brackets onto your teeth, making sure they are firmly bonded into the correct positions.
  5. The next step is to attach the wires and any elastics or ties, and these will be adjusted to begin moving your teeth.
  6. You’ll need to visit your orthodontist at regular intervals to have your progress checked, and to have your brace adjusted as necessary.
  7. Once treatment is complete, your braces will be removed and you will need to wear a retainer to ensure your teeth stay in the correct position.

Will It Hurt?

It’s perfectly normal to feel some discomfort when your braces have been fitted. This is because your teeth and tooth roots will begin to move, so some tenderness is perfectly normal. If the pressure is too much you may need to return to your orthodontist for the brace to be adjusted, but otherwise it should be possible to deal with any discomfort using over-the-counter painkillers.

How Long Does Treatment Take?

The length of treatment is something that can only be determined by your orthodontist as it will depend on the severity of your bite problems. Most people will complete treatment within one or two years, but treatment can take as long as three years.

What About Eating, Drinking and Cleaning my Teeth?

You will need to spend extra time cleaning your teeth during treatment, and will need to clean your teeth after each meal. It is best to use special orthodontic brushes to clean around the brackets and wires, and some people find it easier to use a water flosser. You will be given full instructions on how to clean your teeth by your orthodontist.