What is a Retainer?

Orthodontic Retainers are devices that are customized to hold the teeth in place after the removal of
braces. Retainers are made out of wires or clear plastic. Retainers are available as both removable and
permanent ones. The removable ones are usually used at night while sleeping.

Need for Retainers

The retainer is a necessity after orthodontic treatment in most of the cases due to the teeth’s inclination to
move back to their original place. This tendency to move to its original position can occur all through the
life of the patient and are caused by:

  • The recoil of the Periodontal Fibres that attaches a tooth to the alveolar bone.
  • Surrounding Soft tissues can exert pressure.
  • Occlusion or the contact between the teeth of the lower jaw and upper jaw.
  • Continuous growth and development of the patient.

Advantages of Retainers

  • The Orthodontic treatment and retainers does the combined effort of straightening crooked teeth
    with the correct bite. These straight teeth in turn have the following advantages:
  • Straight teeth can be cleaned easily with a drastic decrease in plaque buildup, thus reducing
  • Straight teeth will allow kids and adults to have a better chance at chewing their food by
    increasing saliva thus allowing them to ingest more nutrients through their food.
  • The correct usage of retainers in both adults and children can help in reducing the effect of diabetes.
  • The wearing of retainers has also helped some kids to breathe properly by reducing snoring and
    sleep apnoea to a great extent.
  • Retainers have proven beneficial for kids in improving their speech by helping to adjust the
    placement of their tongue properly and form the correct sounds as they increase their vocabulary.

Types of Retainers

There are two main types of retainers: Removable and Permanent.

Hawley Retainer:

This removable retainer has a metal wire that keeps the six anterior teeth in place by being wrapped
around them. The Hawley bow or the labial wire has 2 omega loops that will help in the adjustment. The
retainer is embedded in an acrylic baseplate that is placed in the roof of the mouth or palate. This retainer
is a popular removable retainer. It has the following advantages:

  • Strong and inflexible that helps in keeping the teeth in their position.
  • The metal wires are adjustable until thetreatment is over, allowing for slight movement of the anterior teeth and also inclusion of prosthetic teeth.

Essix Retainers

This type of removable retainer is also called the VFR or Vacuum Formed Retainer, made of PVC or
polyvinyl chloride. Essix retainers are easier and cheaper to manufacture. They are transparent and are
made from a mould and it covers the entire arch of the teeth from one canine to the other. The
transparency feature of this retainer has made it less visible, thus increasing its aesthetic value.
These VFR retainers are best worn at night since the plastic cover prevents contact between the upper and
lower teeth thus preventing chewing food.

Bonded or Fixed Retainers

This type of retainers usually have a thin wire worn across either the front or back of the teeth and are
fixed or bonded to the teeth using a composite resin that acts as an adhesive. The cleaning of the teeth has
to be done using floss threader or similar devices in order to access the space between the teeth. It is most
effective to retain the position of the teeth after treatment, when compared to the temporary retainers.
The fixed retainers can have the following types:

  • Fibers that are reinforced.
  • Canine Retainers that are bonded to canines only.
  • Mutli-strand Retainers that are bonded to all the teeth.

Authored By Dr Sanjay N - Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopaedics, Bangalore

Ask Doctor