Retainers After Braces: How to Maintain Your Results

The key to maintaining a beautiful, straight smile after braces is a custom retainer. This device can prevent teeth from shifting out of place and reversing the substantial transformation your smile has undergone. At our practice, we offer removable Hawley and Essix retainers, as well as fixed bonded retainers. During your consultation at our Montgomery, AL, practice, Dr. Tim S. Trulove can review the importance of retainers after braces, and help you determine which appliance is most appropriate for your needs, preferences, and lifestyle. He can then provide you with detailed instructions regarding your treatment timeline to preserve the results of your orthodontia.

The Importance of Retainers

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance designed to ensure your teeth retain their position once treatment is complete. It generally takes up to one year for your smile to stabilize after your braces are removed or your Invisalign® treatment has concluded. While your bone hardens around your tooth roots and your ligaments tighten, retainers can keep your teeth in place, so you can enjoy long-lasting results.

To ensure the most comfortable and secure fit, we craft all appliances at our in-house laboratory.​

Types of Retainers

We offer three types of retainers at Trulove Orthodontics, including:

  • Hawley Retainer: This is the most common retainer. It is made of gum-colored acrylic and thin metal wires. This removable device fits over the roof of your mouth and runs along the surface of your teeth. Its gentle force will keep your teeth from shifting.
  • Essix Retainer: This type of oral appliance is also removable, but is made from clear plastic, resembling an Invisalign aligner. It fits seamlessly and discreetly over both your top and bottom teeth.
  • Fixed Bonded Retainer: This retainer is permanently attached to the back of your teeth, typically on your bottom dental arch. Though not removable, this oral appliance is very discreet. If Dr. Trulove suspects your teeth are at risk for long-term shifting, a fixed bonded retainer may be the most suitable option. We also recommend this option for children and teens who may have trouble remembering to wear their retainers. 

To ensure the most comfortable and secure fit, we craft all appliances at our in-house laboratory.

Treatment Timeline

As soon as we remove your braces, you should begin to wear your retainer. We recommend wearing your retainer at least 20 to 22 hours each day for the first three to six months. If you have a Hawley or Essix retainer, you can remove it when eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth. Once Dr. Trulove is confident that your teeth are stabilizing, you can transition to wearing your retainer only at night. At the one-year mark, you can begin to wear your retainer every other night.

Treatment generally lasts a minimum of 12 months. However, your timeline will ultimately depend upon how your teeth respond to treatment, and how committed you are to wearing your device. Since your teeth can continue to shift with age or after wisdom teeth are removed, you will be encouraged to wear your retainer as directed for years to come. If your retainer ever feels tight, this could be a sign of dental misalignment. Resume wearing your retainer nighty until it becomes more comfortable.

Caring for Your Retainer

When you are not wearing your removable retainer, you should keep it safe in a proper case. Thorough hygiene is also essential for both the longevity of the device and your oral health. Your retainer can easily collect food, debris, and bacteria, causing bad breath, decay, and gum disease. You should clean your removable retainer with specialized cleaning tablets. You should also schedule biannual dental appointments, during which your dentist can thoroughly clean your teeth and remove any plaque and tartar that has built up. This is especially important if you have a bonded retainer. If cared for properly, your retainer can last several years.

Contact Our Office

Wearing retainers after braces is crucial to maintaining your straight smile. Contact our office online to get fitted for your custom-made retainer, or call (334) 277-2980 and speak with a member of our team today.