What options do you have if you don’t want removable retainers?

There are two alternatives to removable retainers. One is to not have retainers at all. This is a risky choice as teeth are known to “relapse,” which means that the tooth may rotate or shift back towards its original position. Retainers resist this force and without them, teeth move on their own, resulting in a bite or smile that is no longer in its best shape. The second alternative is a bonded or fixed retainer. These retainers are metal wires that are glued to the inside of the upper and lower teeth to hold everything in place. Bonded retainers don’t need to be removed; they are semi-permanently fixed in place.

Can I get a permanent retainer?

Most patients are candidates for permanent retainers on their lower teeth. If you have issues with bone health, a permanent retainer may even be a better choice. However, if your bite is aligned in such a way that you risk biting onto the retainer or if the retainer causes you to change the way you bite down, a permanent retainer may not be a good idea. For many patients, a permanent upper retainer is not a choice for this exact reason. Your orthodontist will be the best person to ask about this.

What are the risks of a fixed retainer?

A fixed retainer is supposed to stay in place forever. So if it breaks or comes loose, it needs to be replaced. If it is not fixed right away, teeth can shift as if there is no retainer in place at all. Fixed retainers can break or come loose from eating foods that are too hard like chips or hard candies and can even happen with healthier foods that are crunchy like almonds or carrots. If a fixed retainer is broken and needs to be replaced, there will likely be a cost to replace it. Fixed retainers can also be harder to clean; without good hygiene you are more likely to have gum disease, bone loss and cavities in the areas that are covered by the retainer. The increased amount of plaque being trapped in your teeth can result in cavities.

What can I do to minimize problems with a fixed retainer?

The first way to protect your retainer is to avoid foods that are very hard or crunchy. Also avoid putting things in your mouth that don’t belong there like fingers or pens/pencils. Having good hygiene (brushing around and under the retainer and flossing regularly) will minimize plaque in the area. Plaque weakens the glue and makes it easier to break the retainer off your teeth. Also, regular cleanings with the dentist will prevent too much tartar from developing in the area; this makes it much easier for you to clean the retainers by yourself at home. If you have a lot of tartar build-up the dentist/hygienist who cleans your teeth may not be able to clean your teeth without breaking the retainer.

How much do fixed retainers cost?

The cost of fixed retainers varies from office to office and from area to area. In most places where your smile is treated, fixed retainers are done for a small additional fee. However, if you are going to a new orthodontist for a fixed retainer, you can expect it to cost between $500.00 and $1,500.00.

How can I tell that my fixed retainer is broken?

Most people cannot tell right away that the retainer is broken. If the retainer is moving around at all, this could be a sign that the retainer is broken. Many people only notice the retainer is broken once the teeth have shifted. It is important to inspect the retainer regularly to see if any parts are loose or no longer attached to the teeth.

What should I do if my fixed retainer is broken?

If your retainer is broken, call your orthodontist right away. This needs to be replaced so that the retainer can do its job. Any time spent waiting to repair/replace the retainer is more time for your teeth to move again. Once teeth have shifted, the only way to fix it is by going back into active treatment (meaning more braces or aligners). If visiting your orthodontist is not possible, call the nearest orthodontic office and try to schedule an appointment with them right away.