While getting dental braces is a very effective way to straighten misaligned teeth, the results often do not last a lifetime and the teeth can easily shift out of alignment. This is where dental retainers come in. When you visit your dental clinic to have your braces removed, your orthodontist will definitely want you to wear a retainer to stabilize the dental correction. You’ll likely find that you have a choice between wearing a removable retainer or a permanent retainer. Here, we take a look at the latter.

So what is a permanent retainer and how does it work?

A permanent retainer does what dental retainers do – preventing orthodontically treated teeth from moving back to their old, misaligned positions. But unlike the removable or ‘temporary’ retainer, a permanent retainer is designed to stay on the teeth guarding against shifting 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This device typically consists of a metal band (stainless steel) that runs across the back of your teeth. This wire is permanently attached behind the front teeth, allowing it to keep your teeth from moving right back to their original, incorrect positions.

Here are some basic facts about permanent retainers.

  • A permanent retainer is usually made from stainless steel/metal alloy flexible wire.
  • A permanent retainer is designed to fit on – and attach to – the back of the lower and upper front teeth.
  • The wire is installed in such a way that it doesn’t show when you smile and even your friends won’t realize you’re wearing one.
  • Your orthodontist attaches a permanent retainer to the back of the lower 6 front teeth and the back of the upper 4 front teeth immediately after you’ve had your braces removed.
  • The permanent retainer device stays on your teeth indefinitely unless your dentist suggests removing it for oral hygiene or health reasons.

However, it’s worth noting that despite its name, you may not be required to wear your permanent retainer forever. That’s right. Your orthodontist may recommend taking your permanent retainer off and replacing it with a removable type retainer at some point. This is usually done for a number of reasons, chief among them being to improve oral health. The other reasons why you may need permanent retainer removal include: damage to the retainer appliance, infections in the mouth, tartar buildup and pain in the mouth.

Actually, many dentists use a combination of the two retainers as part of the orthodontic treatment. They usually place a permanent retainer that must be worn 24/7 for at least six months, then switch to a removable retainer that is worn only at night when going to sleep. Alternatively, they may recommend patients to use both types of retainers concurrently. When this happens, the patient will leave the dental office with removable retainers to wear in conjunction with the permanent retainer. Most dentists believe that because permanent retainers only help ‘retain’ the front teeth, wearing removable retainers in conjunction with a permanent retainer offers the best protection against relapse for the entire set of teeth.

But, of course, you should expect to wear some form of dental retainer for pretty much the rest of your life. Your retainer – permanent or removable – ensures that your newly treated teeth won’t move back into their old misaligned positions. If you’ve worn a permanent retainer for a long time, you may be able to switch to a removable device that you can wear only a few nights per week. But if you stop wearing one totally, you could see your teeth move back to their original crooked positions.

Your orthodontist should be able to advise you on how long you’ll need to wear your permanent retainer.

What are the pros and cons of a permanent retainer?

Like any other orthodontic appliance, the permanent retainer comes with both advantages and disadvantages. And naturally you need to weigh both of them before choosing a retainer for your treatment.

Pros:

  • First of all, a permanent retainer tends to do a better job of retaining teeth compared to other types of retainers, specifically the removable type retainer. It is because of this that dentists recommend this type of retainer in cases involving severe misalignment issues that have a higher risk of relapse after orthodontic treatment.
  • It offers a better long-term solution for straightening teeth, particularly given the fact that teeth begin to shift naturally as we age.
  • A permanent retainer offers the convenience of not having to wear and remove the device now and then, since it’s attached permanently.
  • Because the retainer is permanently fused to the teeth, you don’t have to worry about losing it or forgetting to put it in.
  • It combines nicely with other orthodontic appliances and products, such as night guards or sleep apnea devices.
  • Because the permanent retainer is fused to the back of the teeth, it remains hidden from view and won’t be visible from the outside. So it won’t show when you smile and no one will realize that you’re a retainer.

Cons:

  • A permanent retainer stays attached to your teeth throughout the entire treatment. This can be a huge inconvenience for some.
    A removable retainer tends to be more patient-friendly in that it is worn at night and taken off in the morning, and you can also take it off when before meals or when you want to floss and brush your teeth.
  • Because permanent retainers remain fused onto the front teeth at all times, they make it a little more difficult to floss and brush teeth. Of course, your dentist will teach you how to do these oral hygiene tasks and give you the tools to complete them quickly and efficiently; but you’ll still find that it takes more time and effort to go through your daily oral care routine when wearing your permanent retainer.
  • Permanent retainers support the front teeth and, therefore, don’t provide much protection from relapse for the back teeth.
  • The metal wire may cause irritation in the mouth, but this problem can be rectified through the use of dental wax.

Are you a good candidate for a permanent retainer?

A permanent retainer may be a good option for you if:

– You’re being treated for severe malocclusions

– You want to ‘get it and forget it ‘; or you don’t want to keep bothering about wearing and removing a retainer

– You’re forgetful and fear losing or misplacing your retainer

– You really want the best teeth straightening results possible

What about maintaining permanent retainer?

Permanent retainers come with the increased risk of plaque buildup, cavities and gum disease, since the wire is permanently attached to the teeth and you cannot remove it to floss and brush. Because of this, you should make sure you take the time to do teeth cleaning properly.

Here’s how you do it:- Start with an anti-gingivitis or anti-plaque mouth rinse.

  • Start with an anti-gingivitis or anti-plaque mouth rinse.
  • Make sure you do tongue scraping before you floss and brush in the morning.
  • Brush – Consider using a combination of electric brush and ionic brush to clean your teeth thoroughly.
  • Floss – Use a threader floss or Super Floss to get into all those small spaces between ‘retained’ teeth.
    Lastly, don’t forget to ask your dentist about the best daily dental care routine for you.