Want the ‘FAQs’ About Permanent Retainers? We Can Help!

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04/21/22

Patients who have their braces or clear aligners removed have one final step in their orthodontic treatment — retainers. Some people opt for removable retainers, but they may find that it can be difficult to keep up with them. They can get lost or damaged, and you not only have to keep up with brushing and flossing your teeth but cleaning your retainers as well. Patients at Northwest Orthodontics have another option — permanent retainers. These retainers are bonded to the back of your teeth, so they can’t be seen. If you’re concerned about keeping up with retainers, permanent retainers may be the way to go. 

What’s so special about permanent retainers? How “permanent” are permanent retainers? How long do permanent retainers last? Are there any disadvantages? Northwest Orthodontics has the answers to these questions and more. Read on! 

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What Is the Purpose of Permanent Retainers?

Once your braces or clear aligners are removed, your teeth still have the ability to move while the ligaments and bone in your jaw settle into their new positions. Left alone, your teeth will begin moving back to their original positions, undoing the work of your braces or clear aligners. Retainers keep the teeth in place while the jaw sets. Retainers are absolutely necessary to keep all that hard work in place. 

There are three main kinds of retainers. The Hawley retainers are what most people think of retainers. They’re made of a hard acrylic that is molded to your mouth, and a metal wire wraps around the back teeth and sits across the front teeth to hold them in place. Clear retainers look like clear aligners, and they hold all of the teeth in place. 

The problem with the metal retainers and clear retainers is that you must keep up with them at all times. They must be removed to eat and to drink anything but clear water. They must be cleaned regularly, and some patients find the upkeep to be too much. 

For those patients, the third type of retainer is a better option — the permanent retainer. This fixed retainer is a wire that is bonded to the back of your teeth to keep them from moving. They’re usually bonded to the back of the front lower teeth, but sometimes a wire can be bonded to the back upper teeth, as well. The permanent retainer keeps your teeth in place after orthodontic treatment. Because they’re a fixed retainer, you never have to worry about how many hours a day you’re wearing it or whether you’ll lose it by removing it. 

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How Do You Care for a Permanent Retainer? 

Permanent retainers may take a bit of getting used to when it comes to oral hygiene, but the upkeep is much less than with removable retainers. Other retainers need storage cases to ensure they don’t get lost or damaged, and they need special cleaners to keep them bacteria-free. Permanent retainers need none of that. 

What you will need is floss threaders similar to those you probably used with your braces. These will allow you to floss properly behind and under your retainer, cleaning the areas between your teeth and between the retainer and your teeth. You’ll also want to brush carefully with a soft-bristled brush. That way, you can clean around it thoroughly without risking loosening it or accidentally popping it off your teeth.

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Do Permanent Retainers Need to be Replaced?

Though they are called “permanent” retainers, how long do permanent retainers stay in? The life of a permanent retainer is actually about 10-20 years or so, depending on how well it’s treated. That means you clean thoroughly around it and you report any possible damage right away. 

Even so, accidents can happen that can pop the retainer off your teeth, including injury or a cement bond that weakens over time. You may notice a loose wire or a shift in the bond holding the wire to the teeth. Contact us right away if you find that your bonded retainer came off. We may be able to repair the retainer instead of having to replace it. Otherwise, we can replace the retainer. 

You’ll also want to replace the retainer if there is pain or discomfort that builds, indicating the teeth have shifted. A large buildup of tartar around the retainer may require a retainer replacement and thorough cleaning. 

Eventually, the retainer will need to be replaced. With proper care, your retainer should last a decade or more. Whatever the case, any repair or replacement should be done by a professional dentist or orthodontist. Never try to repair or remove your permanent retainer yourself. 

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Exploring Your Retainer Options

How long are permanent retainers worn? Usually, you will wear a retainer for your lifetime. There are a few exceptions, such as if your teeth shift and require further orthodontic treatment. Usually, though, you will continue to wear your retainer to ensure your teeth stay put. Your dentist or orthodontist will check it during your regular checkups to make sure the retainer is still firmly in place and there are no issues with its continued use. 

Do permanent retainers sound like a good option for you? If so, start a free virtual consultation or schedule a free consultation to discuss your options if you’re in the Northwest Arkansas or River Valley areas. We’ll be happy to discuss all of your options!

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