What kind of retainer is best for you?


Every Orthodontist is different when it comes to selecting a retainer. The decision is based on their experience with a particular type of retainer and years of knowledge on success rate for each type of retainer. Although somethings for you to consider when selecting a particular type of retainer, include: How much time are you willing to devote to using and caring for your retainer? How visible do you want it to be? Do you want a removable option or something permanent? You could be using a retainer for years or indefinitely, so it is important to pick a type that works for you.

Types of Retainers

From invisible to wire, retainers come in a variety of styles. There are multiple options to suit style and appearance preferences, but retainers fall into three basic categories: permanent and two types of removable styles.

  • Permanent retainers. Permanent retainers go by several names, such as bonded wire retainers, fixed retainers or lingual retainer wire. These types of retainers are considered permanent, because while an orthodontist can remove them, patients cannot. Permanent retainers are bonded to the back of the patient’s teeth. They can be placed on the lower six front teeth and/or the upper four front teeth, depending on what is needed. This type of retainer holds the teeth firmly in place to prevent them from moving back into their previous positions.

  • Hawley retainers. Hawley retainers may be the most widely recognized type of retainer. Commonly referred to as wire retainers, this style has been around for decades and continues to be a reliable option for orthodontists. They are made from a molded acrylic arch and wire, custom-fitted to the wearer’s mouth. They work by slowly maneuvering teeth into place or holding them in place, and they can be adjusted as needed. Hawley retainers are removable.

  • Clear retainers. These types of nearly invisible retainers have become increasingly popular in recent years, as the technology has dramatically improved. They are made from clear plastic, and like Hawley retainers, they are custom-fitted for the patient’s mouth. Because they are clear, they are hard to notice without looking for them. They are not considered as durable as other types of retainers and can be removed as needed.

Soft drinks and orthodontic braces... not a good combination!

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, soft drinks, including regular and diet soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks, weaken tooth enamel and can lead to decay. They are even harder on teeth when orthodontic appliances such as braces or Invisalign are present. It is strongly recommended that soft drinks be avoided during any orthodontic treatment. This will help to ensure your teeth stay healthy and strong during treatment which will lead to a beautiful smile.

Soft drinks contain acids that pull calcium out of the enamel. This makes the enamel softer. The acid continues to dissolve the tooth enamel, creating white spots called decalcification. Decalcification, or white spot lesions, can lead to cavities. Once enamel dissolves, it cannot "grow" back. This is a permanent loss of enamel once it occurs.

Chemicals are classified as acids or bases. The pH value is a measurement of how acidic or basic a chemical is. Soft drinks have a low pH value, and are therefore considered acids. Water has a neutral pH value at 7.0. Pepsi has a pH value of 2.62, for example, making it very acidic and therefore very harmful to tooth enamel, as tooth enamel begins to dissolve at a pH level of 5.5. Water or milk is always the best choice (milk has a pH value of 6.7)!

BE SMART! Avoid soft drinks, juices, sports drinks and energy drinks during orthodontic treatment. If you must have that periodic soft drink, always drink it through a straw and have it with a meal. Brush right away after drinking a soft drink, and if you can't brush right away, be sure and at least rinse your mouth out with water. Drink the soft drink quickly rather than sipping over time as each sip renews that acid attack on your enamel! Be sure and brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least three times a day as fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel. And don't forget to floss! You should also remember to see your dentist every six months during your orthodontic treatment for a professional cleaning and check-up.

What is an orthodontic expander?

WHEN YOU THINK of orthodontic treatment, the first things that come to mind are braces and retainers. But there’s more to orthodontics than that! Depending on your child’s unique case, we may use other orthodontic appliances to help them achieve a beautiful smile. One of these appliances is an orthodontic, or palatal expander.

An Expander Helps Widen Narrow Mouths

A palatal expander is a specially made appliance used to widen the palate or roof of the mouth. This appliance is usually used for younger patients whose jaw may be too narrow to accommodate incoming permanent teeth. When the jaw is too narrow for the adult set of teeth, crowding and bite misalignment may develop.

If a narrow upper jaw is left untreated and crowding and bite problems occur, a person may have difficulty with chewing, speech and other functions. It may also cause a need for more dental work as an adult. Put simply, an expander is used to widen a narrow palate early, helping big teeth fit into little mouths!

Here’s a quick look at how an expander works:

Help Your Child Adjust To Their Expander

The first couple of days with an expander may be an adjustment for your child. They may report some discomfort such as a feeling of pressure in the mouth or behind their nose. This pressure fades quickly on its own but over-the-counter pain relievers can also help.

In addition, your child may speak differently for the first few days or slurp more than usual due to an increase in saliva production. All of this is normal and will go away as they get used to the expander in their mouths.

Since your child’s mouth may be a bit sore, eating fun foods that require minimal chewing like yogurt, ice cream, jello, mashed potatoes, pudding, etc. may help them adapt. Normal eating should resume within a few days.

Keep Up An Oral Hygiene Routine

As with any orthodontic appliance, it’s important for your child to keep their expander clean. They should brush twice a day as well as continue daily flossing. Since food may be more prone to get caught under your child’s expander, we recommend a water jet or syringe after meals and before bedtime to flush out any remaining debris.

Every Smile Is Unique

Everyone is unique and may require a different combination of treatment to achieve a beautiful, healthy smile. Our goal is cater to your child’s individual needs to bring about the best results. Do you have any questions about palatal expanders? Give us a call or leave it in the comments below! We always love to hear from you.