Mother and son.At Dr. Gordon Niles Orthodontics, we are passionate about helping all of our patients achieve a healthy, beautiful smile. We proudly offer a wide range of orthodontic treatments including braces and Invisalign to patients throughout the Howell and Brighton, MI areas, and we work to customize treatment to suit each patient's unique needs. Treatment doesn't end with braces, though: after you get your braces off, you'll enter the retention phase, which is critical to maintaining your new smile. 

The Importance of Retention

When you get your braces off, we know you'll be excited: you're seeing your new smile for the first time. However, while your teeth are in new positions, the underlying bones and tissues that support them have yet to adapt to those new positions and "set" into place. That means that without retention treatment, your teeth will just move back to their old positions, erasing all your hard work! After finishing the active stage of treatment, it's crucial to wear a retainer as your mouth adapts to your new smile. Doing so will safeguard your smile for years to come. 

Types of Retainers

Types of orthodontic retainers.

There are a number of orthodontic appliances available for the retention phase of treatment, and Dr. Niles will decide which to use based on your unique situation. There are three main types of retainers available, which are as follows:

  • Hawley Retainer: Perhaps the most common form of retainer is the Hawley retainer, which is made from a number of metal wires that wrap around the teeth and a thin layer of acrylic that's molded to fit the roof of your mouth. Hawley retainers are removable, durable, and can even be customized with your own personal color combination.
  • Clear Aligners: Another type of retainer is clear aligners. Similar to Invisalign, clear aligners are made from a clear piece of plastic that's molded to fit directly onto the dental arch. In addition to being removable, clear aligners are also inconspicuous, which makes them a popular option with adults. They're slightly more fragile than Hawleys, though, and should be worn with care.
  • Fixed Retainer: The third kind of retainer is fixed retainer. This consists of a small metal wire that's bonded to the inside (tongue-side) of the teeth; usually on the front lower teeth. Fixed retainers are not removable, but they're totally invisible from the outside and are great for patients with a higher risk of teeth moving back to old positions.

Caring For Your Retainer

How to Clean Removable Retainers

Wearing your retainer is crucial to the success of your treatment, and while you're wearing it, it's important that you keep it clean as well. The process of cleaning your retainer will vary depending on which type you have, but overall is fairly simple:

  • Cleaning Hawley Retainers: To clean a Hawley, just brush it gently with a toothbrush, as you would your teeth, every time you take it out or put it back in. You can also soak it in a glass with a denture cleaning tablet periodically.
  • Cleaning Clear Aligners: To clean a clear aligner-type retainer, either soak it in a glass with denture cleaner or use special retainer cleaners. Using a brush may scratch a clear aligner.
  • Cleaning Fixed Retainers: You can't take a fixed retainer out to clean it, so you'll need to clean it by brushing and flossing. A floss threader will be necessary to floss under the retainer, and an interdental toothbrush (a small, specialty brush shaped like a pine tree) can also help keep it clean. 

When we give you your retainer, we'll also provide a special retainer case. It's important to always use this case to hold the retainer, even if you take it out for just a second. We've heard many stories from patients who've accidentally folded their retainer up in a napkin and thrown it away! In addition to using the case, you'll want to avoid exposing your retainer to excess heat or very hot water, which may melt it. With diligent care, your retainer will last years and help to safeguard your new smile for a lifetime.

Contact Your Brighton & Howell, MI Orthodontist

We hope you've found this page helpful, and if you're interested in pursuing a beautiful new smile for yourself, we would love to help. Dr. Niles has helped patients all over the Howell and Brighton areas achieve the smile of their dreams, and we would be happy to do the same for you. If you would like to get started on the path to a new smile, please call us at 810-227-1950 or reach out to us at our contact page. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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