More than 2,000 years ago, the earliest record of orthodontics was made. Since then, many ways of straightening the teeth and addressing malocclusion have emerged.
People with bite, spacing, and crowding problems have been given many options on how to achieve their most beautiful smiles and save their teeth risks of tooth decay, gum disease, and infections due to a crooked set of teeth.
Orthodontic treatment can involve fixed or removable devices. Fixed orthodontic appliances, as their name suggests, are non-removable and attached to the teeth. The most known fixed orthodontic appliance is dental braces which utilize brackets bonded to each tooth and connected by an archwire.
On the other hand, removable orthodontic appliances cover mouth’s roof and are fastened onto some teeth. Clear aligners like Invisalign are the most common removable orthodontic appliances. These aligners use computer-generated and transparent trays to correct the malocclusion.
With the help of orthodontic appliances, the teeth move, muscles are retrained, and gentle pressure is applied to the jaw.
Usually, when orthodontic treatment is about to end, and the appliances are removed, the use of retainers is suggested by the dentist. Retainers are utilized to preserve straightened teeth in place and help the gums and bones get accustomed to the new position.
Retainers are needed to prevent the risk of relapse due to pressure from soft tissues, the recoil of gum fibers, occlusion, and the on-going development of a patient’s mouth.
What are the types of retainers I can use?
Retainers can also be removable or fixed. Under removable retainers, Hawley, which is named after its inventor Dr. Charles A. Hawley, is the most common retainer type. This retainer is made of a metal wire which encloses the six anterior teeth and is merged by two omega loops which are used to adjust it for minor movements of the anterior teeth when necessary.
Although not aesthetically pleasing, Hawley retainers are robust, easy-to-make, and can add a prosthetic tooth or teeth. Still, these retainers are not as effective compared to other retainers when it comes to the retention of the lower incisors.
Another type of retainer is a vacuum-formed retainer which is clear and fitted to the entire curve of the teeth or from canine to canine only. These retainers resemble a clear aligner. They are also recommended to be worn even at night.
A vacuum-formed retainer is cheaper, less apparent when worn, and easy-to-wear. However, patients who grind their teeth are not advised to use this type of retainers as they are likely to break and deteriorate.
On the other hand, fixed retainers can be multi-strand, fixed canine, and canine, or reinforced fibers. Multi-strand retainers are attached to each tooth of the labial segment and utilize acid-etch composite or composite resin bonding.
Among the three, a multi-strand retainer is the most recommended since fixed canine, and canine retainer can result in a relapse of the incisors, while a reinforced fiber retainer is more susceptible to fracture.
Talk to your dentist about the best type of retainer that will suit your needs, condition, and finances. Still, regardless of what retainer you use, taking proper care of them is necessary for utmost effectiveness.