Removable vs. Permanent Retainers: How to Discuss Both Options with Your Patients

In our post-covid world, more people are taking a longer look at their oral and dental health, especially with the rise in popularity of clear aligners. As technology continues to advance and patients opt for various orthodontic procedures to achieve and maintain a straight, healthy smile, retainers are becoming as important as ever. Finding the right retainer style that efficiently and comfortably fits a person’s lifestyle is easier once you’ve talked through all the varieties available. In this article, we’ll detail the two basic types, removable and permanent retainers, and how to discuss both options with your patients.

The History Behind Retainers

Retainers have been used in dentistry for almost 100 years when the look and appeal of straight teeth grew in popularity in the early 1900’s. In 1945, an American orthodontist created the first pair of retainers to be removable and function like a mouth guard. As the years went on and the orthodontic industry recognized the need for an alternative to removable, often forgotten, retainers, a permanent installation option became available in the 1970’s. With this new invention, orthodontists and dentists alike could ensure the permanent change created by braces that wasn’t always seen with its removable counterpart.

The Two Basic Types Today

While orthodontic technology has certainly changed since the 1940’s and 70’s, the retainer still maintains its original function: to ensure that newly aligned teeth stay in place after braces have finished their job and been removed. With both removable and permanent retainers, a variety of styles and materials can be used to create a custom solution for each patient. Sophisticated orthodontic labs can give you options, including a wide variety of colors and materials like titanium for allergic patients. The continuous development of thermoforming materials has allowed for more options than ever before. Depending upon your patient’s preferences, you have plenty of options to choose from.

Permanent Retainer Pros & Cons

As the name suggests, permanent retainers, also known as fixed retainers, are bonded on the teeth so patients don’t have to worry about a removable appliance that relies on their memory and routine. This fixed structure is typically a thin wire applied to the teeth using dental glue or cement to adhere it to the surface. Unlike traditional braces, this retainer is bonded on the backside of the teeth so it’s invisible from the outside but ever present. Because of this, it’s considered more effective in the long term and requires less check-ups or corrections.

As convenient as a fixed retainer may be, certain patients may be hesitant to add wires back into their mouth after finally being free of their braces. This retainer type can also come with a learning curve when it comes to cleaning because it can make brushing and flossing a little tricky; due to the small size of the wire, food and debris can get trapped and require additional education or tools to help the patient learn how to properly clean their newly straightened teeth.

Removable Retainer Pros & Cons

After years of braces, many patients love the freedom from having wires in their mouth and prefer to keep it that way after they’re taken out. For them, a removable retainer may be the most suitable option. These retainers are easy to put in and take out whenever necessary, and a skilled orthodontic lab can create retainers that are completely clear, contain thin wires, or a combination of the two, depending upon patient preference. 

While the feel and convenience factors are high with this retainer type, they can be easy to forget or lose, come with difficult cleaning practices, and result in more frequent orthodontist visits. With this in mind, it’s important to chat with your patient about their usual day-to-day routines, their level of personal organization, and schedule preferences. The key differences between well-organized and scatter-brained personalities are critical to consider when deciding which retainer is right for your patient and their lifestyle.

How to Choose the Right Retainer for Your Patient

Every situation and every patient is unique. You’ve already spent time getting to know your patient throughout their years with braces, so use that knowledge to create a solution that fits them. Depending upon your orthodontic lab, you can collaborate with them on a custom retainer that mixes both types. For instance a particular case may require mixing up retention clasps or bending asymmetric labial bows. Also, the acrylic finish may need to be shorter or thicker in certain areas. Lingual permanent retainers need to be carefully crafted due to occlusion, so close consultation with the technicians is critical to achieve success.  

Retainers You Can Trust from OrthoDenco

When you sit down with your patients to discuss your plan for their retainers, know that you have an Orthodontic lab in your corner that values this long-term investment in your patients’ teeth like you do. At OrthoDenco, we are proud of the high quality retainers and dental appliances our team produces every day. With our team of specialized technicians and a wide variety of services we offer, including digital orthodontic services and free consultations, we provide perfectly fitted appliances with each order. Contact us to discover how our superior service can bring peace of mind to your work and your patients today.