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Orthodontic Retainers

 Installing braces is the most common method of treating poorly aligned teeth. Their job is to pressurize the teeth into a set position that has been professionally identified as ideal. But even once the braces period has ended, there is still work to be done! The teeth will "settle" over the upcoming months or even years and could even relapse into the misalignment that had initially made treatment necessary. This is where a retainer - and your orthodontist - come into play. The retainer is designed to hold the teeth in place, thus completing the pressurizing work done by the braces. Which Material Should I Choose?  Traditionally, retainers were made of metal. Designed in the 1920s, the traditional retainer was made from acrylic and steel brackets that held the retainer in its place, with wire across the front to hold those teeth in their place. While this offers plenty of functionality, it is often unsightly and distracting, even more so than braces themselves! Today, dentists will often design clear retainers for their patients. These are typically made of a polypropylene material - a thermoplastic polymer - and are less weighty and restrictive than metal retainers. They still cover the teeth, but the lack of metal parts make them less conspicuous.

The Pros & Cons.  There are definite benefits, of course, to metal retainers over clear ones. They are more durable, better withstanding both everyday mouth activity and brushing - an activity that can scratch and damage the polypropylene retainers. Also, metal retainers can be adjusted or altered by your orthodontist, while clear ones cannot. Also, clear retainers can take on a cloudy or smudgy appearance. But the drawbacks can be troublesome. Bulky metal retainers can be uncomfortable in the mouth, and the metal across the front can affect the wearer's speech. In addition to being far less noticeable, clear retainers are generally more comfortable. Also, clear retainers can serve as mouth guards for those who habitually grind their teeth at night.

A Common Thread: Cleanliness is Essential!  Of course, either type of retainer will require solid oral hygiene. Studies have found scary organisms thriving inside retainers, including staphylococcus and Candia. Therefore, any retainer needs to be brushed daily with a specialized cleaner, or as your orthodontist recommends.

Clear retainers tend to be more expensive, both in the short and long terms. Since clear retainers are more fragile and prone to breakage - and also considering that they cannot be adjusted with usage - they are far more likely to need complete replacement than metal retainers. The important thing is that you look beyond merely the aesthetic aspect when making your decision. Find an orthodontist you trust and listen closely to his or her advice. 06