Retainers give your child the best long-term results from orthodontic care.
If your child is nearing the age where you’re beginning to think about scheduling their first orthodontic evaluation, you might have started preparing for that appointment by researching treatments like braces. When most people think of orthodontics, braces are the first treatment they think of because they’re so common. As you begin looking into braces, though, you might see references to retainers. Retainers are a vital part of many people’s daily routines—and there’s a reason they’re so important! There are several types of retainers out there, including the increasingly popular clear Essix retainers. Understanding retainers, their uses, why your child may need them, and what options are out there can help you guide your child through future treatments so that they can get the best long-term results from their orthodontic treatment. We want the best long-term results for your child, too, so our dental team in Waldorf MD has put together a guide on retainers just for you.
Who needs retainers?
Braces or clear aligners shift teeth into their new positions to create a straight, even smile, but it’s retainers that help make this change permanent. Your child’s teeth are particularly vulnerable to shifting back to their previous positions right after their braces are removed because it takes at least four to six months for the new position of their teeth to become permanent. Even after this critical period, pressures from chewing, wear and tear, and even simple growth can cause their teeth to begin shifting back—even years after they’ve completed their orthodontic treatment.
Thankfully, this is where retainers come in! They keep teeth in their new positions once your child has completed their orthodontic treatment. This vital job means that everyone who has undergone orthodontic treatment using braces or clear aligners needs retainers afterward. Many people are surprised to learn that there are a few other situations in which your child might get retainers. Retainers can sometimes be used before or even instead of braces to close small gaps between your child’s teeth or to correct mild overcrowding if it only affects a couple of teeth.
How long are they usually worn?
Since their teeth can start shifting back at any time, it’s recommended that your child wear their retainers for the rest of their life to gain the best long-term results from their orthodontic treatment. How often they have to wear their retainers decreases as time goes on, though. In general, dentists recommend that retainers are worn all the time for the first year after your child finishes their orthodontic treatment. This allows their teeth to settle more fully into their new positioning. During this time, your child’s retainer should only be removed when they eat, play sports, or practice their regular oral hygiene routine. After this first year, your child will likely be able to cut back to wearing their retainer only when they go to sleep at night. It’s this routine that most people end up needing to keep for the rest of their lives. Everyone is different, though, so your child’s dentist may give them different instructions based on their unique needs.
What kinds of retainers are used?
It might surprise you to learn that there are three types of retainers you and your child can choose from, each with its own pros and cons.
This type of retainer, also called Hawley retainers, is what you likely picture when you think of retainers. They consist of a metal wire that slides into place against the front of your child’s teeth. This wire is attached to an acrylic plastic material that is molded to fit against the roof of their mouth or the inside of their lower teeth. The wire makes them more immediately visible on your child’s teeth, but they’re durable and can last for years if your child takes good care of them.
Clear Essix Retainers
Much like clear aligners, clear Essix retainers are made from a special clear plastic that is custom-made to mold to the contours of your child’s new smile. This makes the aligners nearly invisible on your child’s teeth, which is a major plus for many kids. Clear Essix retainers need careful care to prevent them from warping in the heat and to keep them looking their best, though, so your child should be up to the task of caring for them if you choose these retainers.
True to their name, permanent retainers consist of a wire that’s permanently bonded to the back of your child’s teeth. This is most often done for young patients who likely can’t or won’t follow instructions for removable retainers or whose teeth are at a greater risk of shifting back to their original positions. These retainers aren’t visible when your child smiles and are impossible to lose, but they do make thorough oral hygiene a little more difficult and can lead to issues like gum disease.
What makes Essix retainers so well-liked?
One of the main reasons that clear Essix retainers are so well-liked is the same reason that makes clear aligners so popular—their near-invisibility on your child’s teeth. This helps your child feel more confident while wearing the aligners, which makes them more likely to wear them when they’re supposed to. This is a major plus for both you and your child! Plus, clear Essix retainers are smooth and less bulky than wire retainers, which makes them more comfortable. It also means that they affect your child’s speech less than wire retainers. Your child’s speech might have a bit of a lisp while they get used to the way the retainers feel in their mouth, but afterward, they should be able to speak normally. This is yet another factor that will help them feel more comfortable and confident while wearing the retainers.
Why is it so important to keep retainers clean?
No matter what type of retainer your child gets, it’s incredibly important that they clean them regularly by following the instructions that their dentist provides. Plaque and tartar can build up on their retainer just like it does on teeth. Since the retainer spends a lot of time resting against your child’s teeth, this can increase the likelihood that they’ll develop oral health issues like tooth decay or gum disease. Plus, plaque and tartar contain bacteria that can make their retainer taste and smell gross, which makes it unpleasant to wear and gives them bad breath.
If your child gets clear Essix retainers, keeping the retainers clear is an additional reason to keep them clean. When plaque or tartar builds up on clear Essix retainers, they can take on a yellow or brown tint, making them much more visible on your child’s teeth. Thankfully, as long as your child follows the care instructions for their clear Essix aligners, including cleaning them regularly and preventing them from coming into contact with staining foods or drinks, they should stay invisible on your child’s teeth.
How do you clean clear Essix retainers?
When your child carries out their regular oral hygiene routine—which they should be especially careful about while they’re wearing retainers—they should also clean their clear Essix retainers. This involves rinsing the retainers with cold water before every use and using a soft-bristled toothbrush, cold water, and clear, unscented soap or a specialized cleaner to clean the retainers twice a day.
Make sure your child avoids using hot water or anything abrasive to clean their clear Essix retainers. Hot water can warp the retainers, preventing them from fitting over your child’s teeth or doing their job of holding them in place, while abrasive cleaning materials can scratch the retainers and make them appear cloudy over time. A lot of this is simply a matter of getting the right tools and establishing a routine. Once your child has their new routine down, caring for their clear Essix retainers is simple and only adds a few minutes to their regular oral hygiene routine!
When it comes to orthodontic treatment, retainers are just as important as braces and aligners. They ensure that your child gets—and keeps—the full benefit of their straight, even smile for a lifetime. Clear Essix retainers can add to this by making your child feel comfortable and confident while they’re wearing their retainers, making them more willing to wear them as instructed. If you’d like to learn more about clear Essix retainers, how to care for them, or why early orthodontic evaluations are so vital to your child’s oral health, feel free to schedule a consultation at our dental offices in Prince Frederick MD at any time.