After braces treatment, just when you think that the hassle is over, you are asked to choose between a removable or permanent retainer. A retainer is a post-braces treatment appliance which prevents the chance of orthodontic relapse.

In easier words, soon after orthodontic treatment, usually, teeth tend to pull back to their earlier position. That’s is why retainer is worn for a stipulated period to avoid such instances.

You can easily wear and remove removable retainers, but permanent retainers or lingual retainers are different.

They are bonded directly on your teeth. There could be instances where you might go for permanent retainer removal such as excessive tartar buildup, retainer damage due to biting on hard foods.

Moving ahead in this article, you will come to know ways to take care of permanent retainers to avoid any chance of removal.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance which helps teeth stay in their new position after braces treatment. It also maintains the teeth alignment which is achieved by braces treatment. The use of a retainer is essential for the post-braces care.

Retainers are custom made and can be fixed or removable types. (2) After completion of braces treatment, bone, gums, and muscles need time to adapt to the change.

If you do not use retainer in the post braces period, you may end up ruining the alignment of your teeth.

Your dentist will offer you a choice between removable or permanent retainers when you go for braces removal. Removable retainers are cheap and easy to wear, but the disadvantages include –

  • You may forget to wear it
  • You may lose it
  • A removable retainer may create a lisp, and you may feel that your mouth produces more saliva

What are fixed retainers?

Fixed retainers, also called lingual retainers which are permanently bonded behind the front teeth. Many orthodontists give both removable and fixed retainers.

In such cases, the dentist bonds the fixed retainer to teeth before taking an impression of teeth for the removable retainer.

You might wonder if they are permanent then why you would need to remove them? They are permanent, but if there is some damage or they have been there for too long, you may need to go for removal of the permanent retainer. (1)

Reasons why you might need removal of the permanent retainer

Damage to the retainer

A permanent retainer can get damaged at times. Biting into hard foods, injuries to the mouth or wear and tear of the wire can cause the appliance to break or become unbound.

At times, you might not realize that your retainer has detached till a tooth begins to move out of position. That is why it is recommended to go for a regular dental checkup so that the problem is detected early.

A buildup of calculus on teeth surfaces

Tartar or calculus buildup is very common in patients who are undergoing braces treatment or have permanent retainers. The wires are attached to the back of your front teeth with dental cement, which creates an opportunity for calculus buildup against the tooth surface.

A hardened calculus causes severe damage to the teeth. So, you need to pay attention to your dental hygiene routine when you start wearing permanent retainers.

Moving onto removable retainers

Though they are called permanent retainers, they are not permanent. Jaws of teens grow till the early twenties. The dentist may advise removal of your permanent retainers once he thinks that wearing only removable retainers will do the needful.

Many people have worn the device for up to 20 years, and there have been no adverse long-term effects in such people. Once you have worn your retainers for long enough, your dentist may ask you to wear removable retainers only at night.

Pain in teeth

The retainers ensure that your teeth do not shift back to original position, so you shouldn’t feel pain while you are wearing your retainers. If you feel a shift, the pressure may cause pain.

Also, calculus buildup can give rise to swollen, bleeding gums and bad breath. Make sure to visit your orthodontist if any such thing happens.

How to fix broken retainers?

Recognize the damage

Damage to a bonded retainer is not always evident which is why you must not skip your regular dental check-ups. Also, at home, you must inspect the retainers to check if they are in place or have become loose or unbound.

Removal of the retainer

Your orthodontist will inspect the situation to decide if your retainer needs replacement or repair. To do this, your orthodontist will remove the cement with a drill, detach the retainer from the teeth and finish off by cleaning and polishing the tooth surface.

Steps to take at home

If you realize that your retainer has broken, you may need to wait for sometime for your orthodontist’s appointment. Meanwhile, take control of the situation to make yourself comfortable till your dentist fix the issue

  • Inspect if the retainer is stable and you can still use the retainer
  • Avoid hard, sticky or chewy food till the retainer is repaired or replaced
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to help ease the pain
  • Buy an over-the-counter mouth guard while you wait for your appointment. The mouth guard will protect your tongue and cheek from getting hurt. It will also prevent movement of the retainer

Caring for retainers

When you use permanent retainers, you need to be careful and need to give attention to your oral hygiene routine.

  • Use an orthodontic brush to clean the tooth surface properly
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to help protect your teeth against developing a cavity
  • Use anti-plaque or anti-gingivitis mouth rinse
  • Use orthodontic dental floss to clean underneath your retainer
  • Visit your dentist or oral hygienist regularly for checkup and professional cleaning

Over to you

Braces treatment is not the end of the orthodontic treatment. Once you are done with braces, you must take even more care with the help of retainers to prevent the teeth from moving back to old position.

Also, if you are going with permanent retainers, then you should take an extra care of them. Improper care might lead to damage of permanent retainer and you might have to go for removal.

So, take care of your teeth and decide on removable or permanent retainers by weighing the pros and cons of both types. If you are careful with your eating habits, oral hygiene regime and visit the dentist regularly, then you will do fine with fixed retainers. (3)

You may have to go for permanent retainer removal in conditions like tartar buildup, retainer damage due to trauma or biting on hard foods