The day you’ve been waiting months for has finally arrived – your braces are removed and you get to see your new beautiful, straight smile! Does that mean your treatment is finished?

Not so fast – in order to keep that perfectly straight and aligned smile, you have to wear a retainer. You’ve worked hard to get this new smile, and we know you’d hate to see all that work go to waste. Your retainer will preserve your result – keeping your smile as gorgeous as the day your braces were removed.

What types of retainers are available?

Orthodontic retainers can be removable or fixed. Removable retainers can be placed and removed by the patient, and the patient is responsible for wearing it as directed by the orthodontist. Fixed retainers are bonded to the teeth, meaning the patient cannot remove them. We place fixed retainers on the tongue side of the teeth so they are nearly invisible.

What types of removable retainers are there?

Orthodontists use a wide variety of removable retainers, but at Westwalk Orthodontics Group, we use the Essix retainer. This is a clear, removable retainer that is very similar to a clear aligner. We find that our patients love their Essix retainers because they offer a higher degree of aesthetics than other removable retainers do. Patients can go around town and still happily show off their new smiles.

Essix retainers aren’t just virtually invisible, they are comfortable, too. They fit snugly against the teeth and are an amazing tool to prevent tooth movement. Essix retainers can perfectly hold your smile and bite in place.

A Hawley retainer is the type of retainer you probably think of when you conjure up a retainer. It consists of a metal bad that goes across the front of the teeth and an acrylic piece that rests against the palate. While we do not use this type of retainer often, we do use it occasionally for patients who have a combination of baby and adult teeth. This type of retainer is easily adjustable, allowing us to make accommodations as adult teeth erupt, while not interrupting tooth position.

Do I still see the orthodontist while wearing dental retainers?

Yes, of course! We want to ensure you are wearing the retainers well and your teeth remain properly aligned. In our orthodontic practice, we like to see patients for two years after the completion of orthodontic treatment. We ask you to bring your retainers to every visit for us to check that they still fit properly.

Appointments will be less frequent than during active orthodontic treatment. Also, at these retainer appointments, we will gradually reduce the required amount of wear.

How much should I wear my orthodontic retainers?

Starting on the day your braces are taken off, we will ask you to wear your retainers full time. They should be worn all the time, except when you’re eating, brushing your teeth, or wearing a sports mouthguard. In our offices, our Norwalk and Westport orthodontists will let you know when you are ready to reduce the number of hours per day. Adhering to our schedule is crucial, especially in the first weeks after braces are removed, to ensure your teeth do not shift and your bite isn’t altered.

Typically, we continue full-time wear for six months after the completion of orthodontics. After six months, we recommend wearing retainers after dinner to the next morning, or a total of 10 to 12 hours per day. Later in the retention phase, we recommend further reducing wear to just during sleep.

Typically two years after completing orthodontics, patients can even reduce wear to every other night. However, if the retainers feel tight, then the patient should increase wear back to every night to avoid undesirable tooth movement.

Rules of Wearing Retainers

  • Follow your orthodontist’s recommendations concerning how much you should wear them.
  • Keep them away from dogs. Dogs will eat them!
  • Do not put retainers on a cafeteria tray, because they tend to get thrown away.
  • Do not microwave retainers.
  • Do not boil orthodontic retainers.
  • When the retainers are not in your mouth, they should be in your retainer case.
  • Do not put dental retainers in a paper towel or napkin, because they tend to be thrown away.

How do you keep the retainer clean?

We recommend cleaning retainers once per day. Many patients find that using cool water with hand or dish soap and a dedicated toothbrush is effective & economical when cleaning retainers.