Clear, Hawley and Permanent Retainers

November 30, 2016

Why Do We Need Retainers?

Teeth can move for any person at any given time. Wearing a retainer is the only way to prevent teeth from changing over time. A person who wears a retainer after the braces come off is most likely to see lasting results. Once your braces are removed, you will begin the retention phase of treatment which is focused on maintaining the newly formed bite and preventing the teeth from shifting back to their previous positions.   

This phase of orthodontic treatment is of vital importance: The periodontal ligaments that anchor your teeth will take many months to adjust to the new positions, leaving the teeth vulnerable to movement. If you don’t wear your retainer as directed, your teeth may start to shift back to their old positions, undoing the progress you’ve made while wearing braces.

You’ve already invested a lot of time and money into developing straighter teeth, and retention treatment is key to ensuring this new smile lasts a lifetime. Here are three types of retainers we use in our office:

Clear Retainer

The clear retainer is made of molded clear plastic and it fits over the arch of your teeth. It looks like Invisalign and is also removable. Patients like clear retainers because they are easy to wear, almost undetectable and are relatively inexpensive. However, because they are clear and removable, clear retainers can be easy to lose or misplace, and they are the least durable of all retainers. Since the retainer molds around the teeth, it can trap liquid inside, so you’ll need to take extra care to rinse and clean it during the day.

Hawley Retainer

The Hawley retainer is made of two parts: a sturdy acrylic (usually pink) frame and a metal wire. The frame is molded either to the roof of your mouth or, if used for lower teeth, to the tissue surrounding your bottom teeth. This ensures a comfortable and snug fit. The wire spans the arch of your front teeth and keeps them in position. The Hawley retainer is much more noticeable than the clear and, at first, may make it difficult for you to speak. It is also easy to lose. However, the Hawley retainers are very durable and are simple to clean.

Fixed/Permanent Retainer

A permanent retainer is a thin wire bonded directly to the surface of your teeth, and it sits behind the front lower or upper teeth. This retainer is completely hidden, and because it cannot be removed, it provides round-the-clock support for your teeth. The downside to the fixed retainer is that it is more challenging to clean and can brake loose. You’ll need to use a floss threader to reach the space between the teeth and be vigilant about cleaning the inside of your teeth and the wire.