Orthodontics Blog

I Got Retainers... Now What?

You’ve been in braces for a long time, you’ve worn your Invisalign trays, you’ve been diligent about your rubber bands, you’ve brushed and flossed like a master…and now you’ve reached the finish line! You are finally done!!!

But once your braces or attachments are removed, you actually start the next and arguably most important phase of orthodontic treatment…retention. Retention starts when you get your retainers and lasts until you don’t want your teeth to be straight anymore. Orthodontists used to say just wear your retainer for a year or so then you don’t have to ever wear it again…but we were WRONG! In order for your teeth to stay straight, you must wear your retainer every night for the rest of your life. That’s why we say “Nighttime for a Lifetime!”

There are three different kinds of retainers, and you may have a combination of a couple different kinds of them. Here’s the deal about each:



Essix (Clear) Retainers:

  • Essix retainers are clear trays, almost like an Invisalign aligner, but are much more durable. 
  • They cover all the surfaces of your tooth. If you grind your teeth at night, these may be a good choice for you.
  • Don’t leave them out in the sun or in a hot car…they can melt!

Hawley (Wire) Retainers:

  • Hawley retainers have a wire that goes across the front teeth to hold them in place.
  • We may suggest them if we want your bite to settle, if you are going to get more dental work done by your general dentist, or if you have tiny spaces to close after treatment. 
  • You can even pick what color they are!

Bonded (Fixed) Retainers:

  • In some instances, we may suggest gluing a wire behind your teeth to hold them in place. 
  • You have to be VERY good at brushing and flossing with this type of retainer.
  • We don’t call them “permanent” retainers because they will inevitably fail at some point (the glue doesn’t last forever) so you may need to have your dentist or an orthodontist fix it at some point. 
  • We will give you an Essix (clear) retainer to wear over your bonded retainer. If the bonded retainer ever comes off, please wear this clear retainer 24-7 until we get to see you and re-glue it back onto your teeth.

No matter what type of retainer you choose, their importance cannot be overstated. If you ever lose your retainer, if it cracks, or if it stops fitting, call us right away so we can adjust them or make you a new set. Keeping your retainers in a safe place out of the way of dogs, children, and other siblings can help you make sure they will fit well forever.  Teeth always want to go back to where they came from, so if the teeth shift, sometimes the only way to put them back straight is to go into orthodontic treatment again. So, all you have to do is wear your retainers well and your teeth will stay straight for many years to come!