Retainers are a very important part of orthodontic treatment. The fact is that teeth move with time, whether you’ve had orthodontic treatment or not. Retainers are the only proven way to keep your teeth from shifting. We call them the “insurance policy” of your orthodontic investment. We get the question all the time – “What retainers are best?” It can be confusing because there are so many options. Let me provide you with my thoughts:
1. Hawley retainers – these are considered the “traditional” orthodontic retainers. Wire and plastic acrylic are the main components of Hawleys. They’ve been around for a long time because the materials have been readily available for many years. We use these retainers now primarily for younger kids who have just finished their first phase of treatment and still have some baby teeth and a second phase of braces later in life to finish their treatment. I don’t love them for final, long-term retainers.
2. Bonded (permanent) retainers – these used to be my favorite retainers for the bottom teeth. The lower Hawley retainers are less comfortable to wear so we noticed early on that compliance was an issue with these. Placing a bonded wire on the inside of the front teeth took care of that concern. I’m not a fan of bonded retainers on the top teeth. First, most people aren’t candidates for these because of their bite in the front. Second, they don’t stay on very well because the chewing forces that push food up against the top retainer tend to break it. Bonded retainers in general require a fair amount of maintenance. But for many years, I felt that was a good tradeoff to keep the bottom teeth straight. I’d rather maintain a bonded retainer than have to go back into treatment to fix teeth that shifted because the Hawley retainer wasn’t worn.
3. Essix (clear) retainers – these have by far become my favorite retainers. Essix retainers have been around for quite some time, but I didn’t have a lot of faith in them in past years due to breakage. But thanks to recent advances in technology, the plastic on the market that these retainers are made from has become much more durable. These retainers are the most comfortable to wear, keep the teeth in better alignment, are easier to talk with when in use, are virtually invisible and are easy to replace. Best of all, people wear these retainers better than all the others, even teenagers! This negates the need for a bonded retainer in my mind. Why have something in the mouth that requires maintenance when you can get the same results with something removable? Keep in mind though, that these are not the best choices for younger kids who finish their first phase of treatment and will need a second phase later to finish.
Hopefully, this information helps you to understand more about retainers in general and why we recommend different retainers for different purposes in our office. If you have further questions, feel free to ask one of us next time you’re in the office. And if you’d like to schedule a free consultation to find out how we can be your guide to that confident smile you deserve, feel free to call our office!