Millions of Americans use Braces and clear aligners each year to straighten their smiles and correct bite alignment issues. To keep their teeth straight after treatment, orthodontists will fit patients with a retainer. These dental appliances are used to help keep your newly straightened teeth in position and are essential to the success of your orthodontic plan.

At King Orthodontics, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to retainers to help you understand everything you need to know about their purpose, how they are used, and more!

What is a Retainer?A Complete Guide to Retainers
A retainer is an orthodontic appliance used for patients after completing treatment with braces or Invisalign to help keep teeth in their new position. Retainers are used to prevent what is known as relapse, which is the natural tendency your teeth have for moving back to their original positions.

Relapse often happens in the late teens or early twenties, but it can occur at any time, even after successful orthodontic treatment. Teeth always remember their original position in your mouth and drift back into these positions if you don’t put pressure on them.

During orthodontic treatment, your braces or aligners keep pressure on the teeth, and the retainer is then used after treatment to maintain the new positions of your teeth and the pressure needed to keep them there. When you complete your orthodontic treatment, you will receive a custom retainer that should be worn exactly as prescribed by your orthodontist.

Remember that not wearing your retainer as directed can result in the need for touch-up treatments, and in more severe cases, you may need to repeat your treatment with braces or aligners. You will likely begin by wearing the retainer around the clock and then may be able to only wear it at night based on your orthodontist’s recommendations.

Types of Retainers
One of two types of retainers is given to patients after their orthodontic treatment, including:

Fixed or Bonded Retainers

A fixed retainer is made of thin wire that is placed across the back surface of the upper or lower teeth and bonded to the teeth using dental glue. The wire is stretched across multiple teeth, so you will need to put more effort into dental hygiene, such as flossing. This type of retainer works well to keep teeth in their newly straightened position and tend to have the best overall outcome. These are used for patients who are at a higher risk of relapse.

A major perk to this type of retainer is that you don’t have to worry about remembering to wear it or losing it like with a removable retainer.

Removable Retainers

At King Orthodontics, we offer clear, fitted retainers that can be removed. These retainers are like Invisalign aligners and need to be properly cared for to ensure that you maintain your oral hygiene and health and prevent the buildup of bacteria and plaque. These plastic retainers are molded to the unique shape of your mouth and are discreet to wear. When cared for properly, this type of retainer will last as long as you need it.

How do I Care for My Retainer?
If you do not properly clean your retainer, it can result in white spots caused by calcium buildup from saliva and may also take on an unpleasant smell. It is crucial to regularly brush and floss your teeth to maintain your oral health, but you also need to clean your retainer. Each time you remove your retainer from your mouth, you should clean it. If you don’t, the debris and buildup on the retainer can cause it to become difficult to remove.

To prevent white spots, be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush, along with water or mild dish soap to clean the retainer. Avoid abrasive cleaners like toothpaste, which can scratch your retainer.

Another issue that can occur is a bad odor that smells like chlorine or feces. This unpleasant odor is caused by plaque buildup on the retainer. While it is crucial to brush your retainer regularly, you also need to soak your retainer in a cleaning solution to ensure that the plaque buildup is removed. If the odor persists, you may need to contact your orthodontist to have your retainer professionally cleaned. A removable retainer should be taken out before eating and drinking and stored in their case when not in use to prevent loss or damage.

If you have a fixed retainer, carefully make sure that you are flossing and cleaning behind the retainer and reaching every tooth’s surface by angling the brush to reach behind the retainer. Waterpiks, floss threaders, and other tools for flossing can help get a more thorough clean. You will also want to avoid sticky or crunchy food to prevent damage to your retainer. Regular dental checkups are also important to keep cavities and plaque under control.

How to Wear Your Retainer
If you have a bonded retainer, your orthodontist at King Orthodontics will place this retainer in the office. For a removable retainer, you will place the retainer in your mouth and remove it throughout the day for eating and drinking, much like an Invisalign aligner. Be sure to listen to your orthodontist about how to properly remove and place your retainer.

You want to avoid biting your retainer into place because it could cause damage. You want to gently place the retainer over your teeth and use your fingers to press it into place.

How Long Do I Wear My Retainer Every Day?
At King Orthodontics, we will provide you with exact instructions for how long to wear your retainer each day after removing your braces. In most cases, patients will need to wear their retainers around the clock for the first several months to a year after getting their braces off.

After this period of time, you will need to wear the retainer at least overnight for your lifetime. Avoid changing how long you wear your retainer each day unless instructed to do so by your orthodontist.

Will My Retainer Cause Pain or Discomfort at First?
Just as it took time for your mouth to get used to braces or your Invisalign aligners, it will take time for your teeth to get used to wearing a retainer. When you first wear the retainer, you can expect it to feel tight. You may also experience some discomfort in the first few days of wearing the retainer.

Within a week or so, you should be used to the retainer without any major discomfort. If after 4 or 5 days you are still feeling pain while wearing your retainer, be sure to contact your orthodontist. They will be able to examine the fit of the retainer to make sure it is properly fitted to your mouth.

Retainers can also cause you to create excess saliva when first wearing it, making talking with the retainer difficult. We recommend practicing your speech in front of a mirror, and within a day or so, you can expect your mouth to get used to the retainer, and your speech will return to normal.

How Much Will My Retainer Cost?
Typically, the cost of your retainer will be covered in the total cost of your orthodontic treatment. However, if you lose or damage a retainer, the cost to replace the retainer will vary based on the type of retainer you use. A removable retainer can cost around $200-$500 to replace, whereas a bonded retainer can cost anywhere from $250-$500 to replace for one row of teeth.

Does Insurance cover my Retainer?
Typically, your retainer cost will likely be covered if your insurance covers your braces or Invisalign since they are considered part of your orthodontic treatment. If you lose your retainer, you may need to check with your insurance company since some do not cover the cost of a replacement.

If you don’t have dental insurance, you will be responsible for all your treatment costs, including your retainers. Speak with your orthodontist about any discounts or payment plans that are offered before beginning treatment.

Have Questions About Your Retainers?

If you need a replacement or have any questions about how to wear or care for your retainer, call King Orthodontics today!