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Retainers are required following orthodontic treatment in order to hold the alignment of the teeth and the fit of the bite.
Without retainers there are muscle forces and forces within the gum tissue that will try to move the teeth partially back to their original positions. The most common retainers are Hawley retainers, Essix retainers, or Bonded retainers. The Hawley and Essix retainers are removable retainers while the Bonded retainers are glued in place.
Hawley retainers consist of a plastic base that conforms to the shape of your mouth and is connected to a wire that wraps around your teeth to keep them in place.
Essix retainers are made of thin clear plastic that cover your teeth. They are almost invisible and do not cover the palate like Hawley retainers do. They are not as durable as Hawley retainers but many patients find them more comfortable.
Bonded retainers are small wires that are glued to the back of some of the front teeth, usually the front six teeth although sometimes just the front four teeth. These retainers are not visible. These bonded retainers hold the alignment of the front teeth very well but do not hold the alignment of the teeth further back.
Oral hygiene is easier with the removable retainers as they can simply be removed for brushing and flossing. These removable retainers can be easily lost. With the bonded retainer it is necessary to thread the floss through a small gap between the wire and the gum tissue in numerous locations to floss properly. These retainers are convenient in as much as you don’t have to take them in and out and they are not easily lost.