The removable retainers we typically use in our office are clear (invisible) retainers. These retainers completely cover the teeth and prevent tooth movements in any direction. They are also beneficial for people who grind their teeth. We would much rather you wear through your retainers than the enamel surfaces of your teeth!
Hawley retainers consist of a wire that extends across the front teeth and acrylic that, in the case of the upper arch, covers the roof of the mouth. These retainers can allow vertical eruption of teeth after braces are removed or, in children, can be adjusted to allow emergence of permanent teeth. The wire also allows for minor adjustments to individual teeth; however, after repeated removal and re-insertion, the wire may loosen or distort, which can lead to relapse.
Occasionally, a positioner is used after the braces are removed. A positioner is a synthetic rubber appliance that, when used properly, can complete final minor tooth movements in your orthodontic treatment. Patient cooperation is critical for success with a positioner. This involves diligent wearing of the appliance and performing jaw exercises as instructed.
Spring aligners are not actually retainers because they are not meant to hold the teeth in their current position. A spring aligner is used on the upper or lower teeth in instances of very mild crowding or relapse. The laboratory sections the teeth out of your plaster model and places them in perfect alignment. The spring aligner is then made to this ideal alignment. When the spring aligner is worn, it pushes the teeth to this ideal position. For optimal success, the “retainer” must be worn full time.
Fixed (“Permanent”) Retainers
Occasionally, we use retainers that consist of a metal wire bonded to the inside of the front teeth to keep spaces closed and teeth aligned. These retainers require meticulous oral hygiene because they tend to accumulate plaque and calculus. When viewed from the front, these retainers are not visible at all.