You’ve got your braces off, now how do you keep your new smile in top condition?

Many people don’t know that your teeth move around throughout your life and that lower, anterior crowding is a common side effect of aging. That is why this next step in orthodontic treatment is so important. Retainers help maintain your confident smile and protect your investment.

Types of Retainers

Retainers are appliances that are customized for you to either maintain all the hard work of braces or to fix minor issues with your teeth. There are different types of retainers, fixed and removable.

Fixed retainers are custom made and placed and removed by your orthodontist in Raleigh. These are bonded to the tongue side of your teeth. They require a bit more conscious oral hygiene than removable retainers because you will have to use floss threaders to clean in between the teeth that the retainer is covering.

Removable retainers can be taken in and out. The common Hawley retainer has a plastic-like material that covers the roof of your mouth or behind your lower teeth and metal wires that hold the retainer in place around certain teeth. There are also Essix retainers that are made from a mold of your teeth. These are made out of an almost invisible plastic-like material and fit over the entire arch. They are very similar to Invisalign appliances.

Which Retainer Will You Need

Your orthodontist in Raleigh will work with you to determine the best retainer for your smile. Depending on how your teeth respond to treatment gives your orthodontist the best information for the type of retention device that will be most appropriate. This can be an upper, a lower, or a combination of both.

One patient may have a fixed lower retainer and a removable upper retainer that they have to wear 24 hours a day.  Another may only need to wear Essix retainers at night. There are also times when you will need a specific retainer to adjust a specific issue (such as small gaps) after the braces have been removed and then use an alternate retainer to maintain the positioning of the teeth.

Your orthodontist will discuss all possible options with you and give you their recommendation for the most effective retention method for you and your lifestyle. They will also give you a “prescription” for wearing the retainers that tell you how long to wear them each day, as well as how long you’ll need to continually wear them.

Caring for Your Retainers

Caring for your retainers is very important. They spend most of their life in your mouth and should be cleaned regularly and kept safe. Here are some tips to help you make sure that you don’t have to replace your retainer unnecessarily:

      1. Keep your removable retainer in a case. If you have a removable retainer, if it’s not in your mouth, it’s in a case! For some reason, dogs love to chew on retainers and are more than capable of getting them off of counters, nightstands, or out of unzipped backpacks. If they’re knocked to the floor, they can be easily stepped on and cracked as well. A case greatly protects your retainer.
      2. Learn more about how to clean your retainer. Your orthodontist in Raleigh will instruct you how to clean your specific retainer. Some retainers shouldn’t be cleaned with toothpaste.
      3. Avoid hot water. Do not put removable retainers in hot water. This can warp the plastic-like material and cause the retainer to no longer fit properly.
      4. Use both hands when inserting or removing your retainer.  This prevents bending the wires and possibly cracking the plastic-like material.
      5. Avoid using your tongue to flip the retainer on and off of your teeth. This can also bend the wires.
      6. Pay attention. If you take your retainer out to eat, double-check that it is back in your mouth before you clear the table.
      7. Maintain oral hygiene. Make sure to brush your fixed retainers thoroughly so that plaque and tartar are less likely to build up and cause cavities. It is extra important to floss between teeth that are being held in place by a fixed retainer. Using a floss threader can make this easier.

If your retainer is damaged, call the office for an appointment and bring the damaged retainer with you. There is a chance that it can be repaired. If you’ve lost your retainer, you will need an appointment for new molds of your teeth and for a new retainer to be made.

We’re ready to help.

Whether you need a retainer to help maintain that confident smile after braces or to fix a small orthodontic issue, Walton & Maready Orthodontics can fit you with the appropriate retainer for you and your lifestyle. Call today for an appointment.


Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 5:00pm


2305 Stafford Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27607