Orthodontic Retainers

When braces have been removed at the completion of active treatment, there may be considerable rebound with the teeth tending to move out of alignment. Retainers are designed to hold the teeth in their correct positions and are removable or fixed.

There are several pre-treatment features that are highly prone to relapse or movement following the removal of the braces:

  • Rotations of teeth
  • Spaces between teeth
  • Where the upper teeth have to be expanded to match the bottom teeth

We recommend that the fixed retainers (flexi-wires) which are bonded behind the upper and lower teeth, stay in place long-term. Removable retainers are worn full-time for several months and then at night only for an indefinite period. Sometimes we may ask patients to wear their retainers once or twice a week long-term.

After braces have been removed teeth are subject to many influences from their surrounding bone, gums, tongue, lips and cheeks. Retainers are designed to allow settling of the bite and to resist adverse or unsightly movement or relapse towards the original problem. It is not possible to guarantee that your teeth will remain in a perfect position for the rest of your life. Every part of the body changes with growth and ageing and the teeth are no exception.

Removable retainers

Hawley retainers

A common removable retainer is known as a Hawley retainer. It is an appliance that clasps the upper first molars and has a wire running around the outside of all the upper teeth. It is worn full-time for many people following the removal of the braces and then for a variable time only at night. Some patients who have had their upper teeth expanded may be required to wear this retainer part-time, two or three nights per week, long-term.

Although these retainers will hold the upper front teeth straight, they will allow the side teeth to settle in with the lower teeth, giving a natural and comfortable bite.

Vacuum-formed or Essix retainers

These retainers are like mouth guards made of thin, clear and more rigid plastic that covers all the teeth and none of the roof of the mouth. It may be worn full-time or at night only. It's also important to not eat anything or drink hot fluids while wearing it.

Bonded or fixed retainers

Lower front teeth are prone to moving with age. This is a natural process and occurs in a high proportion of the population. To prevent or reduce this movement, a fine wire is bonded behind the lower front teeth. We may also bond a wire behind the upper front teeth. These wires are not visible from the front and patients get used to them and generally forget they're in place except when they are brushing and flossing their teeth.