So you’ve just got off your braces and now have a brand new set of beautiful teeth. But in order to keep your teeth straight for as long as possible and even in the years to come, the next step is to get a pair of dental retainers.
Dental retainers are custom made devices designed to hold your teeth in place after wearing braces to ensure no realignment occurs. Most dentists require patients to wear retainers for about 7-8 hours a day, or during sleep. While there are a few types of retainers out there including permanent and Hawley retainers, my patients will know that I prefer clear retainers. Aesthetic reasons aside, clear retainers are a lot comfortable compared to conventional and fixed retainers. Clear retainers may appear thin, but they are extremely strong.
But first, what are clear retainers made of?
Clear retainers are made of high-quality polypropylene or polyurethane material. They’re usually about 0.76mm in thickness and are designed to withstand any crack or stress resistance. To create a clear retainer, a mould of your teeth is created. A very thin plastic made from the materials mentioned above is then heated and sucked down the mould, creating a retainer that’s uniquely yours. Modern technology allows for greater accuracy now; intraoral scanners can virtually take a record of teeth shape and position and 3D printers can create dental models with 25-micron accuracy.
- Virtually invisible, so you’re more likely to wear it, which means a lesser chance of realignment or relapse
- Less bulky and more comfortable than some retainers like Hawley retainers
- Easy to take in and out
- Less likely to affect speech than Hawley retainers
- Provides better oral hygiene than fixed retainers
- Acts as a night guard for bruxism
- Should your teeth be realigned, you will need to get a new set of retainers as clear retainers are not adjustable
- They cannot be repaired if cracked or broken
- Can warp if exposed to heat
- May affect your speech more than permanent retainers
- Can become discoloured if you smoke or drink coffee
- Easily misplaced due to transparency
Can I eat with a clear retainer on?
You should always remove your retainer when eating or even drinking beverages that tend to leave stains, such as coffee. Eating with a retainer on may cause the retainer to break, and food can get stuck between the plastic and your teeth.
When food and drink gets stuck between your retainer and teeth, it can cause decay, bad breath and a stained retainer — I’m sure you don’t wish to look like you have extremely yellow teeth thanks to your stained retainer. This is also why I emphasise for my patients to try to clean their retainer daily.
How do I clean my clear retainer?
Here are a few tips I share with my patients on cleaning their clear retainers:
- Brush or rinse your retainer with warm water daily
- Use a very smooth toothbrush so you don’t scratch the clear plastic
- Avoid using toothpaste as this may too abrasive
- Use a cotton swab or Q-tip to clean the corners and edges
- Soak your clear retainer in a denture cleanser
- Avoid soaking your clear retainer in hot water as this may warp the plastic material
If the above sounds like too much effort for you, the easiest way to keep your clear retainer clean is to soak it in warm water whenever you have a chance. This will keep your clear retainer moist and loosen any lingering food pieces.
Clear retainer for lost teeth
Patients with missing teeth can also benefit from clear retainers. In fact, one useful application of clear retainers is that they can fabricate and construct a crown or denture teeth to replace missing anterior teeth. It can be challenging for orthodontists to provide both function and aesthetics for a patient who’s waiting for final tooth restoration, and a clear retainer can help act as a temporary prosthesis.
Who are clear retainers suitable for?
Clear retainers are suitable for anyone looking to maintain their straight teeth after braces. The invisibility of clear retainers is definitely a plus point for my younger patients who care about their looks.
However, I would not recommend clear retainers for patients who have undergone dental arch expansion as a clear retainer may not be rigid enough. A Hawley retainer might be better instead.
While all types of retainers are generally very effective when used properly, if appearance and comfort are your top priorities, then clear retainers might be your best bet.