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Lost retainer? Not sure what to do? Wondering if you really need to get a new one? As your Thornton, CO, orthodontists, we’re here to give it to you straight: yes, you absolutely need to replace a lost retainer! That’s because a retainer is a critical part of maintaining your beautiful new smile. And at Shine Orthodontics, we have your smile’s best interests at heart — before, during and after orthodontic treatment. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about retainers, including:

  • How an orthodontic retainer works
  • The types of orthodontic retainers
  • What to do if you have a lost retainer



What Does an Orthodontic Retainer Do?


Your teeth go through a lot during orthodontic treatment. Throughout the course of your treatment, your braces or Invisalign apply gentle pressure to your teeth to gradually guide them into their perfect position. But once you get your braces off or you finish with your last set of clear aligners, your teeth no longer have the constant pressure to keep them in place. As a result, it’s only natural that they’ll want to shift back to where they were before treatment. This is a process that we call “orthodontic relapse.”


That’s what makes a retainer such a crucial part of your new smile: it literally “retains” your teeth’s new positions. After all, you’ve just invested a lot of time, money and hard work into achieving straighter teeth, so don’t you want to protect that investment? Think of your retainer as your insurance policy to make sure your healthy new smile lasts for life.


In the beginning, you’ll have to wear your retainer all day, every day. We know that’s not what our patients want to hear right when they finish treatment with braces or Invisalign. Another appliance? Yes, but trust us: it’s for your own good! Wearing your retainer as directed by your Thornton orthodontist will ensure you don’t need further orthodontic treatment in the future. And eventually, as your teeth get used to their new positions, you’ll only need to wear your retainer overnight.



Types of Retainers


Fortunately, there are many types of orthodontic retainers available today, so you can choose the kind that best suits your lifestyle and preferences. Orthodontic retainers fall into two main categories — removable and permanent — so let’s look at each in more detail.


Removable Retainers


Removable retainers are the most popular type of retainer. You can take them out to eat, drink, brush and floss your teeth, so there’s minimal disruption to your daily life. However, you also need to be more accountable to make sure you wear your retainer for the recommended amount of time. This makes removable retainers a good choice for those used to wearing Invisalign aligners. Here are some of the most common choices for removable retainers:


  • Hawley Retainers: These retainers are made from a thin wire that runs along the front of your teeth to keep them aligned. The wire is attached to a molded piece of acrylic that’s custom-made to fit inside the roof of your mouth. While Hawley retainers are quite visible, they’re also extremely durable and you can customize the look with fun colors. This type of retainer is popular with younger patients.


  • Essix Retainers: Essix retainers are a great option for those who want a less visible way to retain their smile. They’re made from a thin clear plastic, so you’ll hardly even notice they’re there!


  • Vivera Retainers: Similar to Essix retainers, Vivera retainers are made from a clear plastic to give wearers a discreet retainer option. As the official Invisalign retainer, you also know you’re getting the best technology available. But even if you haven’t had Invisalign, you can still choose a Vivera retainer. They’re a fantastic option for all patients!


Permanent Retainers


So what if you don’t want to think about how often to wear your retainer after braces or Invisalign? Or what if your orthodontist thinks you’re at a higher risk for relapse? Then you might be a good candidate for a permanent retainer. Also called a fixed retainer, a permanent retainer is simply a thin metal wire that’s bonded onto the back of your teeth to keep them straight, typically on the lower front teeth. This type of retainer cannot be removed but it’s also small, so it shouldn’t disrupt how you eat, drink or brush your teeth. A fixed retainer can, however, make it a bit trickier to floss, so you’ll need to use a floss threader to get in between your teeth.



What to Do If You Lose Your Retainer


So you lost your retainer. Now what? First things first, don’t panic. These things happen, especially when you’re used to having braces fixed in place and now you have to keep track of a removable appliance. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned throughout this post, it’s that you do need to replace a lost retainer. Once you realize that your retainer is lost, take a deep breath and call your Thornton orthodontist to book an appointment.


Once you have your new retainer, you’ll want to take extra care to ensure you don’t lose it again. Here are some tips to keep your retainer — and ultimately, your smile! — safe.


  • Use your case: Whether you’re out for dinner, playing in a soccer game or attending a special event, make sure you always store your retainer safely in its case. That way, you’ll always know exactly where it is when it’s time to pop it back in.
  • Be mindful of pets: We love pets but they’re known to chew on things they’re not supposed to, and this includes retainers. Keep your retainer out of reach of animals to keep it safe.
  • Have a spare: While this may not be an option for everyone, having an extra retainer on hand can be extremely helpful in the chance you lose the one you’ve been wearing. While you search for your lost retainer, you can rest assured that you’re still protecting your smile.


Have you lost your retainer? No worries! Just call Shine Orthodontics today to book an appointment with Dr. Brandon Scheer, and we’ll get your smile back on track.