The Science Behind Retainers: How They Work to Maintain Tooth Alignment

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A person applying retainers for smile maintenance.

Be it braces or clear aligners, orthodontic treatments require proper post-care to maintain results. Retainers are the ultimate orthodontic device used for post-care, that helps orthodontic patients sustain their changes. When it comes to retainers, some patients often get confused about how they help maintain tooth alignment. In this blog, we will provide a complete understanding of retainers, and how they work to maintain tooth alignment.

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Understanding Retainers

Retainers are orthodontic devices that help maintain the newly aligned teeth post-orthodontic treatment. After an orthodontic treatment with braces or aligners, there is still a chance of your teeth shifting to their original places. In order to stop such shift and maintain tooth alignment, retainers are added to the post-orthodontic care.

How do Retainers Work?

Orthodontic patients are recommended to apply retainers right after their orthodontic treatment with braces or aligners. Retainers are customized for each individual and worn as per the orthodontist’s recommendation. They not only help in the maintenance of teeth but also provide support to soft tissues surrounding the teeth.

Types of Retainers

There are different types of retainers. Each type has its advantages and wearing schedule. Your orthodontist will prescribe you one according to your personal preference, treatment requirement, and complexity of the case.

Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are adjustable and can be customized according to each individual. These types of retainers include a wire attached to plastic.

Clear Retainers

Clear retainers are plastic and customized. They are worn over the teeth and do not contain any wire which is why they are barely visible.

Fixed Retainers

This type of retainer is fixed to your tooth to avoid any relapse. They cannot be removed easily as they are fixed to provide continuous tooth alignment maintenance.

Benefits of Retainers

Retainers offer several benefits in dental care.

Relapse Prevention

Even after prolonged orthodontic treatment, there is a high chance of teeth shifting back to their original place. Retainers are effective orthodontic devices that help prevent teeth from any such relapse. They act as a safeguard against relapse by providing support and stability to the teeth.

Preserve Investment

Orthodontic treatment requires a significant investment of time and money. To prevent these investments from going to waste, retainers play a beneficial role. They make sure the results achieved are maintained for the long term and minimize any additional orthodontic care.

Long-term benefits

You wouldn’t want to lose that newly achieved dream smile. Retainers act as a shield to protect that smile for the long term. Orthodontic treatments provide effective results after a long time of hard work and dedication. Preserve that smile for a lifetime by adding retainers to your routine as prescribed by your orthodontist.

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To sum up, Retainer is an orthodontic device that helps sustain your tooth alignment. Braces or clear aligners shift teeth to your desired place whereas, retainers maintain that shift. Your orthodontist can suggest the wear time for retainers depending on the complexity of your case.


1. Are clear retainers different from clear aligners?

Yes, clear aligners help with teeth straightening whereas, clear retainers help to maintain the shift brought by aligners.

2. Can retainers fix teeth alignment?

Retainers only help to sustain the shift brought by braces or other orthodontic treatments.

3. Is it necessary to use retainers after an orthodontic treatment?

It is extremely essential to use retainers if you’ve undergone a teeth straightening treatment. They help prevent the relapse of your newly aligned teeth.

4. What are the different types of retainers?

Different types of retainers include Hawley retainers, clear retainers, and fixed retainers. Your orthodontist will provide you with the type of retainers depending on your personal preference and treatment requirements.

5. How long should I wear retainers?

The duration of retainers depends on your case as some orthodontists might recommend wearing them indefinitely. Whereas in some cases, you have to wear for some months initially with a shift to nighttime wear only.