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The Ultimate Guide To Retainers

Dentagrafix Colorful Retainers

What is a retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic device that holds teeth in position, typically after orthodontic treatment (such as standard braces or clear aligners) is completed. There are different types of retainers that are used by doctors, including clear plastic retainers commonly referred to as “Essix” retainers and acrylic retainers with a metal bar across the front of the teeth commonly known as Hawley retainers. There are also fixed retainers that are not removable and are adhered in place.


What does a retainer do?

The purpose of a retainer is to hold a patient’s teeth in place. Retainers may be used at different times throughout a patient’s treatment, but they are typically provided at the end of their orthodontic treatment to hold the teeth in their nice, new straight position. Without the proper use of retainers, the teeth will likely relapse back to their original malposed position and once again become crooked.


Do retainers hurt?

A new retainer may feel uncomfortable to the patients in the first few days of wearing them, but generally should not be painful to wear. If a patient is experiencing pain or discomfort from their retainers their doctor should be contacted sooner rather than later.


How do retainers work?

Retainers hold the teeth in place and allows the bone surrounding the teeth to heal. They work similar to how a cast helps heal certain types of fractures. The healing helps reduce the likelihood of the teeth shifting back to a less ideal position.


How long do retainers last?

With proper use and care a retainer should usually last for at least one to three years and can sometimes last much longer. That said, retainer longevity can vary depending on how patients care for their appliances, their doctor’s recommendation for use, and if a patient clenches or grinds their teeth, for example.


What happens if you don’t wear a retainer?

If a patient does not wear a retainer their teeth will likely shift back causing the patient’s teeth to become misaligned. If this happens, sometimes the only solution is to go back to the orthodontist for re-treatment which can be inconvenient and costly which is why it is so important to follow the instructions given to you by your doctor.


Do you have to wear a retainer forever?

It depends, but most orthodontists recommend that a patient wear their retainers at night to sleep for life. Check with your doctor to see what they recommend for you as every situation is different.


What does a retainer look like?

There are two primary types removable orthodontic retainers. One is a “Hawley” type retainer that is typically made of acrylic that fits up on the palate and/or the area behind the teeth with a metal bar attached that goes across the lip facing surfaces of the teeth. The acrylic on a Hawley retainer can be customized with various colors and/or patterns. The second type of retainer is commonly referred to as an “Essix” type retainer which is a removable, clear plastic appliance that typically wraps around the entire tooth (think of like a mouth guard but much thinner). “Essex” type retainers are typically all clear but with Dentagrafix, “Essix” type retainers can also now include designs, patterns and logos. Most people design their Dentagrafix retainers so that the front /visible surfaces of the teeth remain totally clear and while the way back teeth have the design for an element of fun and self -expression. The colored pattern can also make the retainer less likely to be lost and more likely to be worn. There are also fixed retainers that remain in your mouth until it is removed by an orthodontist or until it falls out. The most common type of retainer currently being utilized is the “Essix” type retainer.


How to customize my retainer?

The acrylic portion of Hawley retainers can be customized with various colors and/or patterns that are available from the dental lab that actually makes the appliance. “Essix” type retainers are customizable with designs using Dentagrafix’s proprietary, patented plastic. Your orthodontist will usually have a menu of designs for you to choose from. Additionally, you can visit our shop to purchase your own retainer material of choice to give to your doctor for them to make you the customized retainer of your choice.


How much do retainers cost?

Typically, one set of retainers are included in a patient’s orthodontic treatment which includes one retainer for the top teeth and one retainer for the bottom teeth.


How much is a replacement retainer?

Unfortunately, it is common for people to misplace or damage their retainers. If a patient loses or damages their retainer they should contact their orthodontist or dentist immediately to get a replacement. The average cost to replace one retainer is $200, but that will vary depending on the doctor.


How to clean retainers?

Good oral hygiene includes daily brushing and flossing. Retainers are no exception. They must be cleaned to get rid of bacteria, plaque, and tartar that accumulates while you are wearing them. Removable retainers should be cleaned as soon as they are removed from the mouth. The cleaning process may vary depending on the type of retainer you have. Follow your doctor’s instructions for cleaning your appliance. It is common to lightly brush an appliance using a toothbrush and toothpaste and there are traditional dental appliance cleaners that may be used.


How to disinfect retainers?

Use the same process as you use for cleaning your retainers and check with your doctor.


Where can I get my retainer customized?

Ask your orthodontist if they provide Dentagrafix retainers. If not, you can purchase Dentagrafix plastic right here and bring the material along with the instructions for use to your orthodontist.