There are literally hundreds of different dental retainers. I wanted to go over a few different types for you.
The clear retainer is the most common retainer used in my practice. For the typical patient it works really well at holding the teeth in place and preventing enamel wear. This is the type of retainer that I made for myself when my braces came off 7 years ago. They are comfortable, and if there is some slight movement, they are efficient in re-aligning teeth… which is not the primary purpose. They can be called “Essix retainers”, “Tru-Tain retainers”.
The Hawley retainer is one of the most popular retainer types in orthodontics. It is very good at stabilizing the arch form and allows some “settling” of the teeth. Settling is sometimes needed if your teeth are not meshing together at the end of treatment. I like to use Hawley retainers for patients who will need crowns, bridges or implants placed. They are also extremely helpful when I have done some expansion of the upper jaw or if the patient has had orthognathic surgery in conjunction with orthodontics.
The positioner is used when there needs to be some “tweaking” or “minor movement” of the teeth after braces are removed. Models are taken of the patients teeth. The lab technician repositions the teeth into a more ideal bite and then they fabricate the positioner from the idealized tooth position. Normally, these are worn full time after braces are removed. It is somewhat bulky and interferes with most everyday activities. I shy away from using them because compliance in most cases is unrealistic.
Vivera retainers are similar to the clear retainers except they are made by Invisalign. In my practice, I use them for patients who were treated with Invisalign. I am able to fabricate the Vivera retainer from the last Invisalign aligner used, so the patient is spared the time and annoyance of an impression.
Permanent retainers are another popular alternative in orthodontics. I do these less than 5% of the time. Permanent retainers don’t last forever and they need relatively frequent monitoring over the lifetime of the retainer. I would prefer to use a retainer that does not require regular visits to the orthodontist for the rest of your life (or the life of the retainer). We would love to see your smiling face just because you missed us or you wanted a cup of coffee!