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Care Following Orthodontics – Retainers

When braces are finally removed, the “retention” phase begins for most individuals.  The objective of this phase is to ensure the teeth do not regress back to their previous position.  A retainer will be used to maintain the improved position of the teeth.  A retainer is a fixed or removable dental appliance which has been custom-made by the orthodontist to fit the teeth.  Retainers are generally made from transparent plastic and thin wires to optimize the comfort of the patient.

Retainers are worn for varying amounts of time, depending on the type of orthodontic treatment and the age of the patient.  Perseverance and commitment are required to make this final stage of treatment successful.  If the retainer is not worn as directed by the orthodontist, treatment can fail or take much longer than anticipated.

What types of retainer are available?

There are a variety of retainers available; each one geared towards treating a different kind of dental problem.  The orthodontist will make a retainer recommendation depending on the nature of the original diagnosis and the orthodontic treatment plan.

The following are some of the most common types of retainers:

  • Hawley retainer – The Hawley retainer consists of a metal wire on an acrylic arch.  The metal wire may be periodically adjusted by the orthodontist to ensure the teeth stay in the desired position.  The acrylic arch is designed to fit comfortably on the lingual walls or palate of the mouth.

  • Essix – The Essix retainer is the most commonly used vacuum formed retainer (VFR).  A mold is initially made of the teeth in their new alignment, and then clear PVC trays are created to fit over the arch in its entirety.  VFR’s are much cheaper than many other types of retainers and also do not affect the aesthetic appearance of the smile in the same way as the Hawley retainer.  The disadvantage of VFR’s is that they break and scratch more easily than other types of retainers.

  • Fixed retainers – A fixed retainer is somewhat similar to a lingual brace in that it is affixed to the tongue side of a few teeth.  Usually, a fixed retainer is used in cases where there has been either rapid or substantial movement of the teeth.  It usually consists of a single wire.  The inclination of the teeth to move rapidly means they are also more likely to regress back to their previous position if a fixed retainer is not placed.

What do I need to consider when using a retainer?

There are a few basic things to consider for proper use and maintenance of your retainer.

Don’t lose the appliance – Removable retainers are very easy to lose.  It is advisable to place your retainer in the case it came in while eating, drinking and brushing.  Leaving a retainer folded in a napkin at a restaurant or in a public restroom can be very costly if lost because a replacement must be created.  A brightly colored case serves as a great reminder.

Don’t drink while wearing a retainer – It is tempting to drink while wearing a retainer because of the unobtrusive nature of the device.  However, excess liquid trapped under the trays can vastly intensify acid exposure to teeth, increasing the probability of tooth decay.

Don’t eat while wearing a retainer – It can be difficult and awkward to eat while wearing a removable retainer and it can also damage the device.  Food can get trapped around a Hawley retainer wire or underneath the palate, causing bad breath.  When worn on the upper and lower arches simultaneously, VFR retainers do not allow the teeth to meet.  This means that chewing is almost impossible.

Clean the retainer properly – Removable retainers can become breeding grounds for calculus and bacteria.  It is essential to clean the inside and outside thoroughly as often as possible.  Hawley retainers can be cleaned with a toothbrush.  Because harsh bristles can damage the PVC surface of a VFR, denture cleaner or a specialized retainer cleaner is recommended for this type of device.

Wear the retainer as directed – This phase of treatment is critical. The hard work has been done, the braces are off and now it is tempting not to wear the retainer as often as the orthodontist recommends.  Retainers are needed to give the muscles, tissues and bones time to stabilize the teeth in their new alignment.  Failure to wear the retainer as directed can have regrettable consequences, such as teeth returning to their original position, added expense and lost time.

If you have any questions or concerns about retainers, please contact our office.

Testimonials.

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Testimonials

I loved my experience at Dr. Lopez's office. 20 years ago I had several unsightly metal fillings put in my mouth. Also, I've worn my teeth down by grinding considerably over the years. As I grew older, my teeth did not look good to me when I smiled. In July of 2015, I wanted to have all of the metal fillings in my mouth removed, and one of the fillings in particular had already cracked the tooth that it filled. Initially, I was very nervous, but Dr. Lopez and his staff completely put me at ease from the time I walked in the door. The way he rebuilt the grinding damage on my back teeth is remarkable. He is not only a great dentist but a gifted architect and engineer at the same time. I didn't even feel the numbing shots at all, and I actually fell asleep in the chair during the procedure thanks to Dr. Lopez's relaxing demeanor and the calming music in the room. To my wife, I affectionately refer to him as Dr. Lopezzzzzz, now, since I did fall asleep. I would recommend Dr. Lopez to even my closest family. Thank you, again, Dr. Lopez.

Chase H

I went to Dr. Lopez to get veneers on eight teeth (upper, front). From my initial consultation to getting my temporary veneers put in today, I have been consistently impressed by his practice. The entire staff operate as a single, professional team. Extremely courteous, knowledgable, and accommodating, they do everything they can to help patients feel both comfortable and fully informed of everything that goes on during their visit.

My process with the veneers thus far has been extremely smooth and easy. Despite what you may read on the Internet from other people who have gotten veneers elsewhere, Dr. Lopez goes through great measures to ensure that your experience is pain and worry free. He is truly a master at his craft, and his vast experience in the dental profession (equally reflected in his accolades) definitely shows.

I have a check-up for the temporary veneers in the next couple of weeks, and the permanent veneers will arrive shortly thereafter. I have full confidence that the rest of this process will go just as well as it has so far, especially after my visit today. Highly recommend this office for your dental needs. 5/5 stars.

Jason H

I have never liked going to the dentist because of painful past experiences. Shots, rough cleanings, etc. On my first visit, I had a cleaning . There was no pain. I was impressed. And a recent event that required shots, and extractions had me concerned about pain, but Dr. Lopez reassured me not to worry. As he began the shots,NO PAIN AT ALL!!! I was more than impressed! I knew I had found my dentist. Dr. Lopez and his staff are kind, gentle, professional, and the atmosphere is very relaxed and pleasant! I am very pleased, and highly recommend him!!!

Robin T

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Dr. Juan R. Lopez
Phone: 580-536-9647
6941 West Gore Blvd.
Lawton, OK 73505