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Charlotte, NC 28207

(704) 334-7202

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Rock Hill, SC 29723


10320 Steele Creek Rd,
Charlotte, NC 28262

(704) 334-7202

Retainer Types And Care: What To Expect

Getting your braces off is an exciting phase in the process to straightening your teeth — but it’s not the last. Following orthodontic treatment, most patients will need to wear a retainer, an important device that holds, or “retains,” the position of your newly straightened teeth.

What Are Retainers For?

Your teeth may look perfect when your braces come off, but your gums and jawbone have not fully adapted to the new alignment of your teeth. With the braces gone, your teeth will slowly start moving back to their former positioning. This is where retainers come in. A retainer will keep your corrected bite in its proper alignment during this stabilization period.


The good news is that wearing and caring for your retainer to maintain your beautifully straight teeth is relatively easy. Your orthodontist will work with you to determine the best retainer treatment plan to help you keep the same smile that your braces created for you over the previous years.

Types of Retainers

There are three types of alignment retainers commonly used following braces treatment. The retainer type that is right for you will depend on your unique needs and your orthodontist’s recommendations:


  • Hawley retainer: The most commonly used retainer is the Hawley retainer, a durable piece of acrylic plastic that is molded to fit a patient’s mouth. A metal wire surrounds the anterior teeth and holds them in position. Hawley retainers can be easily removed and the plastic arch can even be personalized with a variety of colors.


  • Clear plastic retainers: Clear retainers are similar to the aligners used with the popular Invisalign system. Like the invisible, Invisalign retainers, clear retainers are custom-made of thin, transparent plastic designed to fit comfortably and precisely over your teeth. Clear retainers are both removable and virtually indistinguishable from your natural teeth, making them a well-liked option for retention.


  • Fixed retainers: Unlike removable retainers, fixed retainers are permanent and may be a better option when there is a greater risk of teeth shifting back to their former position. Fixed retainers consist of a thin wire that is bonded to the inside surface of the front teeth. They are especially helpful on the lower front teeth, and although they cannot be removed, they are not visible.

How to Clean Retainers

Just as you worked hard to take care of your braces, you will also need to care for your retainer. Here are some tips for proper retainer cleaning and care:


  • Wear your retainer as often as possible.
  • Take out removable retainers when eating and drinking.
  • Clean your retainer daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove bacteria and odor.
  • Treat retainers with care, as they are breakable.
  • When you are not wearing your removable retainer, always place it in its case.
  • Maintain regular cleanings with your dentist to remove food and bacteria that adheres to fixed retainers in your mouth.
  • Call your orthodontist immediately if you break or lose your brace retainers.


Your orthodontist will tell you how long you should wear your retainer. For most people, they should be worn at least until the bones, ligaments and gums have had time to stabilize around the newly aligned teeth. For some patients, this could mean as little as one year, while others may need to wear their retainer for several years to prevent their teeth from reverting back to their old positions. In many cases, patients may only need to wear their retainers at nighttime, while those with fixed retainers will wear them all the time.

Also Read: Wearing a Retainer, What to Expect

Contact Burrow & Welchel Orthodontics today!


The success of your braces treatment depends on how diligent you are about wearing your retainer. To learn more about how retainers work and the many options available, call (704) 334-7202 or fill out the form below to schedule your appointment.

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