You’ve just gone through a year or two of metal braces, clear braces, or invisible braces. Your teeth look great and you have a beautiful smile. Your done, right? Wrong! In reality, the most important part of your treatment is just beginning. It’s called the retention phase.
People who had metal braces or clear braces have a choice of retention devices. The most common are a positioner, Hawley type retainers, vacuum form invisible retainers, and bonded permanent lower retainers. People who had the invisible braces, or aligners, typically use the last aligner as an invisible retainer. Unfortunately, there is not a perfect retention device. Each one has its pros and cons.
The positioner provides three dimensional retention and does the most complete job stabilizing the alignment and bite relationship if it is worn properly. It looks like a football mouth piece, so many people can’t or won’t wear them. The Hawley type retainers are fairly easy to wear, and come in many colors and patterns. They don’t stabilize bite corrections, can be lost or broken if not cared for properly, and can affect speech. The vacuum form invisible retainers are easy to wear and don’t affect speech, but don’t stabilize the bite and are easy to loose or break. They also cover the biting surface of the teeth, so grinding or clenching can damage them fairly quickly. The bonded retainers are glued to the inside of lower front teeth, so they won’t get lost and don’t affect speech. They are difficult to clean properly, so hygiene can be a problem; and if one of the teeth comes loose and shifts, the bonded retainer can’t re-align it.
No matter what retention device you choose, make sure to follow the instructions you get from your orthodontist. If the retention device gets lost or broken, call your orthodontist as soon as possible to get it repaired or replaced. You’ve worked hard and went through a lot to get that beautiful smile. Wearing your retention device properly will make sure it lasts a lifetime.
By Gary W. Greer, DDS, MSD