Hawley retainers are probably what you picture when you think about retainers. They’re made of acrylic that’s molded to the inside of your mouth, and metal wires go around your teeth to hold them in place. Feeling your retainer in your mouth will probably take a little getting used to, and you might speak slightly differently at first. Some people find that they produce more saliva while wearing a Hawley retainer. The good thing about Hawley retainers is that we can accomplish some minor tooth movement, like closing a small space or moving a single tooth, without having to go into braces. To do minor tooth movements, the retainer should be worn close to 22 hours per day. When the movement is accomplished, the patient reverts to wearing the retainer only at night.
Clear plastic retainers, sometimes called Essix retainers, look sort of like Invisalign. They’re thin, clear trays that fit snugly over your teeth to prevent movement. Since this type of retainer is molded to each tooth, they do the best job at preventing movement. Of the different types of retainers, this is becoming the most popular option. The thin plastic is almost invisible and unless you tell them, most people will not know you’re wearing an Essix retainer. Some people find them more comfortable and easier to speak with, too. Clear retainers have all the same removability benefits as Hawley retainers — they come out for eating and cleaning, and you can choose to remove them for things like photos if you want.
Fixed retainers, many times called permanent retainers, are thin metal wires which are glued to the back of your teeth. They are usually used on your bottom front teeth. They’re bonded with the same cement that is used to put your brackets on. With a fixed retainer, you don’t have to think about wearing it. It’s not going to get lost, and if it does happen to get damaged, it can be replaced. They are virtually unseen by others and some people find fixed retainers more comfortable, too. There are no pieces to get in the way while you talk or chew, and most of the time, you won’t even notice them being there. Fixed retainers stay in your mouth all the time, including while you eat, brush, and floss. Because they don’t come out, they can make oral hygiene a little tricky. Food particles can get caught in your retainer wire. If you’re not diligent about brushing after meals, this may contribute to plaque buildup and gum disease. Flossing with a fixed retainer is sort of like flossing with braces. You’ll need a floss threader to get a proper clean. This type of retainer is only for people with good oral hygiene habits.
**Not everyone is eligible for this type of retainer, so ask your Orthodontist if you are a candidate.**