Even though a retainer seems like a tiny piece of your orthodontic treatment, it is responsible for keeping your teeth in their new, proper positions for the rest of your life. These little tools are crucial to your success; have you ever wondered how they are made? Most retainers are handmade so they can be custom-fitted to each patient’s mouth.

Taking Impressions of the Teeth

The first step in creating a retainer is taking impressions of the teeth. This can be done once your braces are off your teeth and every tooth is in its proper position. Most impressions are created with a compound. The compound is poured into a tray, inserted into the mouth and the teeth are set into the tray. It normally takes about a minute for the impressions to set. Once removed, a model can be constructed for your retainer.

Making a Hawley Retainer

The most common kind of retainer is called a Hawley retainer. A Hawley retainer consists of these parts:

  • Wires
  • Labial bow
  • Ball clasps
  • Acrylic

For a Hawley retainer, the model made from the impressions is fitted with wire. A technician bends wires around the model and secures them with acrylic. Then, the acrylic is built around the wire and allowed to harden. The acrylic compound comes in a variety of colors. When you pick out your retainer, you can choose a unique color and design that is an expression of your style.

Once the acrylic compound hardens, it is pressurized and cured. Next, it is trimmed to its proper size and shaped to comfortably fit your mouth. The retainer is then polished and finally, sterilized so it is ready for wear.

When you have your final fitting for your retainer, some minor adjustments may need to be made so that it is comfortable to wear.

Making an Essix Retainer

Another type of retainer is called an Essix retainer. An Essix retainer is made of transparent, plastic-like material.

Essix retainers are heated in a machine to soften the plastic and then are vacuum suctioned to the impressions of your teeth. The Essix material is then trimmed and the edges are smoothed to make the fit more comfortable. These clear retainers fit snuggly over the teeth and snap into place.

Caring For Your Retainer

It is important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions on how to care for your retainer. At first, you’ll need to wear your retainer all the time because as soon as your braces are removed, your teeth will shift. After about a year, you will likely be given instructions to wear your retainer at night indefinitely because your teeth will continue to shift for the rest of your life.

The Charleston Orthodontic Specialists team is excited to help you achieve a simply spectacular smile! Call (843) 4-BRACES to learn more.