Different Types of Retainers & Their Maintenance

Braces help you to set the teeth in their correct position and retainers do the work of keeping the teeth in their corrective position permanently. There are different types of retainers such as removable and fixed retainers. They are further categorized into subtypes as a clip-on retainer, wrap around retainer, etc.

In our day to day life, you must have come across your sibling or a friend with a plastic or metal mouthpiece or wire around their mouth.


This mouthpiece is a dental appliance which helps them in keeping their teeth set in their new correct position soon after braces removal.

Use of braces without the use of retainer goes in vain as the teeth fall back to their abnormal position. People, who do not care about retainer, often complain about the relapse of teeth in its previous position after they remove braces.

Let’s learn more about retainers, its types, and maintenance in this article.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is passive orthodontic appliances that help in maintaining and stabilizing the position of teeth long enough to permit the reorganization of the supporting structures after the active phase of orthodontic therapy.

The type of retainer to be used depends on various factors such as –

  • The type of malocclusion
  • The aesthetic needs
  • Patient’s oral hygiene
  • Patient co-operation
  • Duration of retention

Why do we use retainer after removal of braces?

Retainer helps in retention of teeth in their correct position soon after removal of othodontic braces. It is essential to wear a retainer because, after removal of braces, the stretched elastic fibers in the gum start pulling the teeth back to their original position.

Retainers help to control teeth shifting. Duration of wearing retainer depends on the condition of your teeth and how much shifting occurred while you wore braces.

In some case, one has to wear it all day for three months and then only at night after that. Some only have to wear at night from the day one for more than a year.

You can also wear a retainer instead of braces if you only have one tooth abnormally positioned. It is normal to feel sore for the first few days of wearing the retainer as pressure is applied to a particular tooth.

Other uses of the retainer

Certain criteria that a right retainer should possess

  • The retainer should retain all teeth that have been moved into desired positions.
  • The retainer should permit regular functional forces to act freely on the dentition.
  • The retainer should be self-cleaning and should permit oral hygiene maintenance.
  • The retainer should be as inconspicuous as possible.

Different types of retainers

  1. Removable Retainers
  2. Fixed retainers

Removable Retainers

They are passive appliances that can be removed by the patient and reinserted at will. Therefore, patient compliance is crucial to the success of these appliances.

Removable retainer includes –

  1. Hawley’s appliance – It is a most frequently used retainer. It consists of a metal wire that typically surrounds the six anterior teeth and keeps them in place.
  2. Begg retainer – It includes a wire arch with adjustment loops at canine or second premolar region and closely contoured to the second molars.
  3. Clip-on retainer/spring aligner – It is made of a wire framework that runs labially over the incisors and then passes between the canine and premolar. It is recurved to lie over the lingual surface.
  4. Wrap around retainer – It is an extended version of the spring aligner that covers all the teeth. It consists of a wire that passes along the labial as well as lingual surfaces of all erupted teeth which are embedded in a strip of acrylic.
  5. Kesling tooth positioner – It is made of a thermoplastic rubber-like material that spans the inter-occlusal space and covers the clinical crowns of upper and lower teeth and a small portion of the gingiva.
  6. Invisible retainer – They are retainers that thoroughly cover the clinical crowns and a part of the gingival tissue. They are made of ultrathin transparent thermoplastic sheets using a thermoforming machine.

Fixed retainers

These retainers are attached or fitted on the teeth and cannot be removed and reinserted by the patients.

  1. Banded canine to canine retainer – This type of retainer is commonly used in the lower anterior region. The canines are banded, and a thick wire is contoured over the lingual aspects and soldered to the canine band.
  2. Bonded lingual retainers – This retainer is bonded on the lingual aspect. Stainless steel or blue Elgiloy wire is adapted lingually to follow the anterior curvature.
  3. The band and spur retainer – This type of retainer is used in cases where a single tooth has been orthodontically treated for rotation correction or labio-lingual displacement.

Maintenance of a retainer

Just a visit to a dental clinic and wearing a retainer is of no use unless you maintain and follow the instruction given by your orthodontist strictly. Here are some methods to keep up the efficiency of your retainer.

  1. Wear your retainer strictly as per the instruction of orthodontist.
  2. Remove your retainer before eating as food should not be stuck in between.
  3. When not wearing it must be appropriately stored in the retainer case.
  4. Wear protective mouth guard during participating in sport.
  5. Brush your retainer every day.
  6. Soak your retainer to keep it clean.
  7. Avoid food that might damage your retainer.

Over to you

After reading the above article, you must have understood the importance of a retainer, different types of retainer and maintenance.


It is advisable to wear the retainer after braces if you want the effect of braces on your teeth’s position to last long. A retainer can also be used in the place of braces in case of minor issues of teeth position.


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