Most of us think of orthodontic work as involving teeth-straightening. And it is undoubtedly true that much of the work a good dentist or orthodontist does include straightening teeth. Tools like braces and Invisalign are critical when it comes to dental health and appearance. But we rarely think about what happens after. The devices that actually straighten your teeth are at the heart of the process. Dental retainers, however, play an enormously important role as well, even if they get less credit! But what are dental retainers? And why are they so important?

If you have been asking, “What are dental retainers?” it is probably best to start with the basics. The function of dental retainers is not so much to make teeth straight as to keep teeth straight. Dental patients usually use them as a follow-up to braces or Invisalign. But they can sometimes also use them in conjunction with these teeth-straightening devices. 

What Are Dental Retainers?: Options

People asking, “What are dental retainers?” also must understand the different types of retainers. This understanding will help them make a more informed decision when they begin to use retainers themselves. There are many different types available. And each patient should choose the model that best suits them based on their situation and lifestyle.

When discussing what are dental retainers, we tend to break them down into three main categories. All three are suitable for aftercare when a patient has had braces of Invisalign. These three types are:

  • Hawley retainers. When you think of what dental retainers look like, you are most likely thinking of Hawley retainers. They are made of plastic or acrylic and wire and are sculpted to match the contours of your mouth. Hawley retainers are the “classic” model because they are effective and durable. They can initially feel invasive, and some patients complain of it affecting their speech. But this effect usually goes away after the first few days. Because of their wire construction, Hawley retainers are visible to others.
  • Essix retainers. Essix retainers are transparent and made of molded plastic. Some patients prefer Essix retainers because they are not as noticeable. Essix retainers are easy to apply and take on and off, but they are less durable than Hawley retainers.
  • Permanent retainers. As their name suggests, permanent retainers are affixed or “bonded” to the back of the front teeth. Although not removable and can be uncomfortable, they are not visible and are very effective. Patients often use permanent retainers as a way of transitioning from braces to a less permanent retainer. 

What Are Dental Retainers Good For?

Retainers are almost always used as a follow-up to a teeth-straightening procedure. After you have had your braces removed, for instance, it’s the retainer’s job to ensure that your teeth do not move back into their original positions. 

If you don’t wear your retainers after you have had a teeth-straightening procedure, you can undo months of good work. So the next time you ask yourself, “What are dental retainers good for?” be aware that they are just as important as the braces were. Maybe more!

Contact South High Dental Today

With more than 30 years of experience, South High is your retainer specialist. You may have questions about which type of dental retainer is right for you. If so, make an appointment using our convenient online form today or call us at 614.363.2462. Get your smile back today!