So you’re finished with your braces? Congratulations! Do not forget to wear your retainers or you will end up where you started. “Orthodontic relapse” cases – i.e. patients who had braces but didn’t wear their retainers is a booming business – but I’m sure you don’t want to pay your ortho again. Especially when you first get your braces off, you should wear the retainer all day. After a while you can get away with wearing them just at night. For retainers, you have a couple different options.
Vacuum Formed Retainers (Essix or Vivera Retainers)
These retainers are made by vacuum-forming a thin layer of clear plastic over a mold of your teeth. When you first finish braces, your ortho might tell you to wear your retainer all day. In that case, these are great because it is very difficult to tell that you are wearing them. They also serve to protect your teeth if you’re in the bad habit of grinding your teeth at night. The downside is that they wear out much quicker than a Hawley retainer – becoming discolored. Vivera, for example, is made by Invisalign (Align Technologies) and is actually a subscription service – meaning either you or your dentist will receive new sets of retainers at given intervals.
These retainers have an acrylic plate that sits against your soft palate, along with wires which hold the teeth in place. You can get these in almost any color you want, including glow-in-the-dark (great in case you are prone to losing things). They last years without discoloring. On the downside, it is odd at first to get used to having the plastic part sit against the upper roof of your mouth – the lower I found to be more natural. Also, you can clearly see the wire when you smile.
Fixed (Bonded) Retainers
Fixed retainers is a wire cemented to the back of your teeth, not visible when you smile. Unlike Hawley and Essix retainers, you can not remove it by yourself. On one hand, this is great because you can’t lose it. On the other hand, it will be a pain to floss. You have to thread the floss under the wire and between your teeth, and as a result your dental hygiene may suffer.