Once the hardware has been removed from your teeth, the last thing you want is for them to shift back to the way they were. Most orthodontists put patients in retainers for about six months to a year after their braces or Invisalign have been removed. Retainers are designed to help teeth and bones adjust to their new positions and prevent shifting. However, if the retainer does not fit well or is not worn regularly, it won’t be effective in keeping teeth in place. In this article, we’ll discuss how to make your retainer fit like a glove.
The Importance of Wearing Your Retainer
It’s essential to wear your retainer as instructed by your orthodontist. The retainer aids in the stabilization and retention of your corrected bite and tooth alignment after the braces have been removed. Here are some reasons why wearing your retainer is vital:
- Prevents teeth from shifting back to their old positions
- Helps bones and gums adjust to the new positions of the teeth
- Reduces the risk of relapse
Types of Retainers
There are different types of retainers available, and your orthodontist will recommend the best retainer for your individual circumstances. Here are the most common types of retainers:
Hawley retainers are made of acrylic and a curved wire that goes around the teeth. It’s adjustable and can be tightened to achieve better retention. Here are some pros and cons of hawley retainers:
|Easily adjustable||Not as discreet as other retainers|
|Durable and long-lasting||May affect speech initially|
|Easy to clean and maintain||May be uncomfortable initially|
Clear retainers are made of transparent plastic material and are custom designed to fit your teeth. They’re also called Essix retainers. Here are some pros and cons of clear retainers:
|Almost invisible||Not as durable as other retainers|
|Comfortable to wear||May need to be replaced more frequently|
|Easy to remove and clean||May affect speech initially|
Fixed retainers, also called permanent or bonded retainers, are small wires cemented onto the back of your front teeth to stabilize them. Here are some pros and cons of fixed retainers:
|Not noticeable||Difficult to clean and floss around|
|Effective in keeping teeth in place||May cause discomfort initially|
|No need for daily wear||May break or come loose more frequently|
How to Make Your Retainer Fit Better
If your retainer isn’t fitting well or is uncomfortable to wear, you may need to make some adjustments to it. Here are some tips on how to make your retainer fit better:
Wear Your Retainer Regularly
The more you wear your retainer, the better it will fit. A retainer must be worn as recommended by your orthodontist. Initially, this may be for 23 hours a day, then gradually decrease to only at night.
Use Retainer Cleaner
Cleaning your retainer regularly will help maintain its shape and fit. Clean your retainer with lukewarm water and an appropriate retainer cleaner or a mild dish soap. Be careful not to use hot water to clean clear retainers as it may warp them. Never use toothpaste to clean your retainer.
Adjusting Your Hawley Retainer
If your hawley retainer isn’t fitting well, adjust the wire loop that goes around the teeth by bending it slightly. You can use a pair of pliers, but be careful not to bend it too much, or you may cause damage to your retainer.
Discuss With Your Orthodontist
If you’re struggling with fitting or adjusting your retainer, discuss it with your orthodontist.
When to Replace Your Retainer
Retainers are durable, but they don’t last forever. Here are some signs that your retainer may need replacing:
- Visible cracks or breaks
- It no longer fits well
- Unpleasant odor
- The acrylic has clouded over time
A retainer is an essential tool for maintaining the results of braces or Invisalign. By following the steps above, you can improve the fit of your retainer, which in turn enhances its effectiveness. Remember, consistent wear and care of your retainer is vital to prevent any shifting of your teeth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions and answers related to making your retainer fit like a glove:
Q: Can I adjust my clear aligner myself?
No, you shouldn’t try to adjust clear aligners yourself. If you have issues with the fit of your retainers, discuss it with your orthodontist, who’ll the best person to make necessary adjustments.
Q: Can I get a new retainer if I lose mine?
Yes, you can get a new retainer from your orthodontist. However, there will be an additional fee for replacing your retainer.
Q: Can I wear my retainer at night only?
Your orthodontist will recommend how often and when to wear your retainer. Typically, patients are advised to have it on for at least 6-12 months continuously before transitioning to night-only wear.
Q: Can retainers help fix gaps between teeth?
Retainers are designed to keep your teeth from shifting after orthodontic treatment. They’re not usually suitable for fixing gaps between teeth. Talk to your orthodontist about other treatment options available to close gaps.
Q: How long should I expect my retainer to last?
Depending on the type of retainer, the age of the wearer, and the amount of wear-and-tear it’s experiencing, retainers last anywhere from six months to several years. Talk to your orthodontist about the durability and longevity of the retainer type they have suggested for you.