The One-Year Retention Phase

The retention phase is one of the most challenging aspects of orthodontics. The purpose of retention is to keep your teeth in place after braces have been removed. Teeth tend to want to shift back into their original positions once braces are removed. Retainers are used to keep teeth in their new positions until the new bite is more stable and less likely to relapse.

Types of Retainers

Hawley RetainerTraditional – Traditional retainers are removable and made of colored acrylic and wire. You can customize your retainer colors. You are given a special case for your retainer; please make sure you keep them in this case when not wearing it! To clean these retainers, brush them with toothpaste using warm water. Your retainers should be worn at all times with the exception of eating and brushing your teeth. Your retainer should also be removed when participating in sports that require a mouth-guard or while swimming.

Essix Retainer


Invisible Retainers – The invisible retainer is a transparent, removable retainer that fits over the entire arch of teeth. Clear retainers are made of a clear thermoplastic material and have no wires. Clear overlay retainers are small and easy to wear.    They also protect the surfaces of your teeth if you have a grinding (bruxism) or clenching habit.

Lingual Bonded RetainerFixed Retainers – Bonded lingual retainers are cemented directly to the inside surface of your lower canines (eye teeth). This is one of the best ways to prevent your lower teeth from shifting as it is permanently attached! Patients with bonded lingual retainers must be careful with their bite as the bonding material may break due to incorrect biting and cause teeth to shift quickly. As with removable retainers, it is important to keep them clean. When brushing, make sure to carefully clean the inside of your lower teeth as well as the wire.

Care of Your Retainer

In many cases, retainers will need to be worn only at night. Your wear instructions will depend on the relationship of your teeth and the tendency to relapse. We’ll make this determination at the appropriate time during your treatment, and we urge you to follow our instructions carefully.

Retainers, just like braces and teeth, tend to attract plaque and food particles. When you remove them, brush them carefully with your toothbrush, toothpaste or soap as directed. There is also a product called Retainer Brite, retainer cleaner that is available at most stores. Keeping your retainers clean will make them taste better and will help keep your breath sweet and fresh.

When you’re not wearing your retainers, store them in the case that was provided. (It’s not necessary to keep a retainer moist.) Your retainers and their case don’t mix well with heat. Never use hot water to clean your retainers, and never put them or the case in direct sunlight. Never wrap them in a tissue, where you might forget and throw them away. Never leave them where your dog can get them. Dogs love the smell of retainers and will chew them up. Don’t chew on the retainer yourself. If you chew on your retainer, you will damage the fit, and it will have to be remade.

If you lose or damage your retainers, they will have to be replaced.

If your retainers don’t fit correctly or you’re unable to wear them for any reason, call our office immediately. Failing to wear your retainer for even a small amount of time may require a new retainer or re-banding of the teeth at an additional cost.

Keep your retainer appointments! These short checks of your retainers and teeth are important. Bring your retainers to all appointments.

Following treatment, schedule a post-treatment cleaning and check-up with your dentist.

We would like for you to think of your retainers as insurance for your new smile! Take proper care of them, and follow our instructions so that your new smile will stay straight and healthy!