What Are Retainers?

Last Editorial Review: 9/13/2017

Ask the experts

What are retainers and why do you have to wear them after dental braces are removed?

Doctor's response

After active orthodontic treatment, most patients will need to wear a retainer for some time. Retainers are devices that help maintain the straight teeth alignment that was achieved by braces. Whether the retainer is fixed or removable and how long the patient needs to wear it varies greatly. These decisions are usually made by the dentist.

A retainer can be a fixed wire bonded to the backs of the lower front teeth or it can be a removable plastic device with a single wire in the front. Some dentists believe that as the wisdom teeth erupt (around ages 16-25 years), they can push the front teeth and disrupt the alignment achieved by braces. Therefore, they recommend that the retainer be worn until the wisdom teeth have fully erupted into the mouth or have been extracted.

Other dentists believe that the presence or absence of wisdom teeth have no effect on future relapse of front teeth crowding. These dentists believe that future teeth crowding may occur simply as a result of the growth of the mandible. Some studies have also shown that in cases where the second molars had been extracted and replaced by third molars (wisdom teeth), there was less relapse or crowding of the front teeth after completion of orthodontic treatment.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

"Developmental defects of the teeth"