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Retainers for Teeth: What You Need to Know

retainers for teeth

Retainers are something people wear when they’re undergoing orthodontic treatment. This is usually because there are some irregularities in the teeth – a misalignment, a gap, a little crookedness, or something similar. When you’re suffering from any of these conditions, it’s possible that you need retainers but it’s not always the case. Understanding retainers further will help us pinpoint exactly when to get retainers and what that entails.

A Continuation of Braces?

The usual time we see people wear orthodontic retainers is right after they finally got off their braces. The usual case is that people wear braces for years in order to change the alignment of teeth, and finally reach a point when the braces have done their work. Even if the braces have done their magic, retainers are needed because teeth are actually stubborn. More often than not, your teeth will slowly but surely try to go back to how they originally were before the braces.

The fact is that teeth shift easily, and in children this is even more rampant. Because children are still growing, the teeth have not found their permanent places in the jaw yet, and as the teeth grow bigger and the bones milk teeth fall off the places could still shift. In the same way, after braces, your teeth’s new places could not be guaranteed just yet. This is where wearing a retainer after braces comes in.

Basically, a braces retainer was made to ‘retain’ the new alignment of the wearer’s teeth after the braces have been removed. It’s fitted especially to the jaw of the wearer, and no two retainers are the same. In a way, it’s a continuation of braces because orthodontists usually require their patients to wear the orthodontic retainer for a couple of months after braces. This means wearing it all day and all night, with the exception of meals.

Once a certain point in time is crossed, the orthodontist will then advise the patient to wear it only at night, or only a three times a week, and so on. Gradually, you then stop wearing retainers after braces until you would no longer need it. But this is something that your orthodontist decides.

An Alignment Tool

There are also people who wear retainers even if they haven’t worn braces before it. Retainers are also an alignment tool, so if you have issues about your teeth but they aren’t severe enough to need braces, then retainers might be what you need. Retainers work the same way braces do, and the best part is that you can remove them during meals, unlike braces, which you have no choice but to deal with.

If you think you need retainers for teeth, it’s best to visit your orthodontist so he or she can properly evaluate your situation. You need a professional’s opinion because you can’t exactly get retainers just because you want to. After all, you don’t want your retainers to cause more problems than good.

Important Things to Remember

When you think you need retainers and your dentist eventually tells you that you actually do, there are several things that you need to remember:

  • Remember that retainers have a cost.

Retainers are not free, and if you’re looking at your options you need to know retainers cost. When you talk to your orthodontist, find out how much the treatment will cost you. You have to keep in mind that having retainers is like investing in your teeth, but it’s no reason to burn a hole in your pocket either.

  • You have a part to do.

The retainer cost is not just referring to what you have to pay for, because there’s also a cost that’s not monetary. When you have retainer for teeth, you will initially feel some discomfort and you have a part to play in making the treatment effective. You need to make sure you take care of your retainers, especially every time you remove them to eat. A lot of people lose their retainers or break them because they don’t put them in the right place.


Making sure that you wear your retainers regularly is also important, because your dentist’s instructions are very important. If your orthodontist says that you need to keep your retainers on all day every day except for meals, you have to follow because this will make the treatment more effective. Not following your dentist’s instructions would only make the treatment longer.

  • There are aesthetic factors you need to consider.

Wearing braces means you will look like you have wires on your teeth, because that’s exactly what braces look like. Retainers are the same way. The good news is that there are clear retainers available for those who want a more aesthetically pleasant look. Wearing a clear retainer will still give you the same effectiveness.

  • There are different kinds of retainers, and you should pick the one that’s best for you.

There’s no single perfect teeth retainer that works for everyone, and depending on what your situation is, your dentist could recommend one of the options. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of retainer, and it would be good to study these before going for it. For instance, a Hawley retainer’s bow wire makes it really obvious and noticeable, but it’s easily adjustable. An Essix retainer on the other hand is fairly unnoticeable, but it tends to be fragile.

  • You have to prepare yourself for some discomfort.

The job of the retainer is to shift your teeth and move them along, so this might cause some discomfort and soreness at first. Some people who wear retainers will seem like they have a lisp while speaking, and this is something that you should prepare for. This is because your mouth is still getting used to functioning with the retainers there.

You can’t expect the retainers to work without some level of discomfort and sacrifice on your part, so you really have to be ready. But like most treatments, getting retainers will really be worth it.

If you liked our article, please share it and use the comment section below to tell us about your experiences or ask any questions. Thanks!

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Nkrumah-Buandoh Grace

    I have ectopic teeth but i cannot afford braces…should I try retainers first?

    • Susan

      Hey Nkrumah-Buandoh Grace!

      This is an interesting problem.

      As with other problems, we really recommend you work with your dentist. There are many options available, from payment plans to using a dental school for reduced service costs.

      If your dentist truly recommends braces, then that is probably the best solution for your problem. Everything else just might not work good enough. Talking with your dentist is the best way to go here. That way you have your options and you can discuss ways to make the payments.

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