If you are considering orthodontics for yourself or your child, it’s important to understand all the steps in your treatment. One of the steps that people often don’t understand very well is their retainer. 

That’s why your Fort Atkinson family dentists at BKS dental are providing this helpful guide on retainers. 

young adult woman holding a clear orthodontic retainer

What are Retainers?

Retainers are orthodontic appliances that you wear to retain your teeth in the positions they achieved after orthodontic treatment. It’s a way to preserve your beautiful, straight smile. 

Orthodontic treatment reshapes the bones around your teeth. The new bone made during treatment isn’t fully formed yet, and your teeth are likely to drift back right away without retention. Even after the new bone becomes fully solidified, biting and chewing forces will encourage your teeth to drift. Your retainer keeps this from happening and holds your teeth where you want them. 

Are There Different Types of Retainers?

Yes. There are many different types of retainers, but in general, they break down into three different categories:

  • Clear retainers
  • Traditional retainers
  • Bonded retainers

Clear retainers look like Invisalign or ClearCorrect aligners. They slip over your teeth for a subtle retainer effect. They offer the same benefits and limitations as Invisalign treatment. 

Traditional retainers, also known as Hawley retainers, are made of metal and plastic. They have a plastic plate with wires that go around your teeth to hold them in place. 

Bonded retainers are bonded to your teeth. They are sometimes called “permanent” retainers to distinguish them from removable types. However, they aren’t permanent–they will need to be replaced. 

How Long Do I Have To Wear My Retainer? 

At first, you will have to wear your retainer all day, every day–removing them only for cleaning your teeth and eating. This gives the new bone around your teeth time to harden. After a few weeks to a few months–your Fort Atkinson dentist will make a recommendation based on your teeth–you will be able to switch to wearing them only at night. In some cases, you might be able to switch to wearing them just a few times a week. 

Wear your retainer as long as you want to keep your straight smile. 

How Do I Care For My Retainer?

Take your retainer out for eating and cleaning your teeth. When you’re not wearing your retainer, you should keep it in its case. When you remove your retainer for eating out, put it in its case, then put the case in a purse, shopping bag, or pocket to make sure you don’t accidentally leave it behind or throw it away. 

Clean your retainer by rinsing gently with warm water. Do not put your retainer under hot or cold water. Remove visible dirt and debris with a soft toothbrush and an approved retainer cleaner. Your Fort Atkinson dentist will let you know which ones are safe to use. To avoid odors and staining, soak your retainer in a denture cleaner about once a week. 

If you start to notice buildup on your retainer, whether it’s visible deposits, staining, or odors, contact your dentist. 

How Do I Care For My Teeth When Wearing A Retainer? 

If you take out your retainer when eating, your retainer shouldn’t change your oral hygiene routine too much. After eating, make sure you thoroughly rinse or even lightly brush your teeth before putting retainers back in. 

Brush and floss your teeth regularly to remove any plaque accumulation your retainer might encourage. Make regular dental checkups for professional cleaning and to make sure your home hygiene routine is working. 

How Long Do Retainers Last?

Clear retainers may last up to three years. Traditional retainers can last a little longer, nearly 10 years. Bonded retainers can last longer, over 10 years. 

Retainers might not last this long if they aren’t properly cared for. Teeth grinding can be hard on clear retainers, significantly reducing their expected life. Exposure to high heat, such as trying to clean the retainer in boiling water or leaving your retainer in a hot car, can damage it, leading to early failure. Dropping or stepping on retainers can damage them. And, of course, people often lose their retainers before they wear out. 

What If My Retainer Is Uncomfortable?

It’s normal for your retainer to be uncomfortable at first. Think of it like getting your braces tightened or moving to a new Invisalign aligner. Within a week, your retainer should be comfortable to wear. If discomfort persists, contact your Fort Atkinson dentist to talk about lingering discomfort. 

If your retainer suddenly starts feeling uncomfortable to wear, it is either because your teeth are drifting or the retainer has changed shape. Contact us if you think you might have damaged your retainer. Consider teeth drift if you haven’t worn your retainer for a few days. Try wearing it a little more for the next few days. If discomfort persists, contact your Fort Atkinson dentist to determine the cause of your discomfort. 

Are Retainers Included In My Orthodontic Treatment Fee?

Usually, your first retainer is considered part of orthodontic treatment, and it’s included. If there’s a reason why it’s not included, your Fort Atkinson family dentist let you know. 

Replacement retainers are not included in orthodontic treatment fees. Some dental insurance plans may cover replacement retainers, though they likely have limits on how often they will pay (such as one replacement every five years). 

Orthodontics in Fort Atkinson

We hope we’ve answered all of your questions about retainers. However, if you have more questions about this or any other part of the orthodontic process, feel free to contact us. 

Please call (920) 563-7323 or use our online form to ask orthodontic questions or start your orthodontic treatment at BKS Dental, located near Johnson Bank in Fort Atkinson, across from Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts.