When most patients think of a “retainer,” they imagine a plastic and metal device that snaps across the upper or lower teeth. In reality, there are a whole array of products that assist in the retention and maintenance of tooth position. At our office, we offer a number of retainer solutions to keep your teeth beautiful and straight.
No matter what type of retainer, the general process for fabricating and delivering the appliance is the same. We typically need to take three types of impressions; one of the teeth that the appliance will fit on, one of the “opposing” set of teeth, and a final impression of how your teeth fit together when you bite down. The last two impressions help guarantee that the appliance doesn’t interfere with the occlusal surfaces (where the bottom and top teeth touch each other). Plastic and metal clasps covering these areas can potentially lead to an uneven bite, headaches and even jaw pain. After taking impressions, we need about two weeks for our lab to fabricate your appliance and send it back to us. When you return to our office, we will do some minor adjustments, check the fit and send you off with your brand new retainer!
At Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry, we frequently deliver three types of retainers. The first is the Hawley Retainer. This is the most recognizable “plastic and metal” type appliance. It is removable, easy to clean and usually very comfortable to wear. This type of retainer typically best fits the needs of our adult and teen patients. We also offer clear plastic retainers, known as Essix Retainers. While these appliances are not as noticeable while wearing (the entire device is made from thin clear plastic), the nature of their constructions requires material to cover the biting surfaces of the teeth. This can lead to a whole host of painful problems, particularly in patients who grind or clench.
Finally, we offer a specialized individual tooth retainer called a Space Maintainer for young children who lose a primary tooth prematurely. Decay, cracks and infection can all indicate that a primary tooth needs to be extracted before the adult tooth is ready to erupt. Once removed, the adjacent teeth will typically “move in” and try to fill in the leftover gap. Since the primary teeth serve as placeholders for their adult counterparts, this shift can result in uneven or improper eruption of the adult dentition. A Space Maintainer counteracts this by holding the space of the lost primary tooth. It is physically cemented to the more rearward tooth and butts up against the more forward one, bridging the gap. We recommend space maintainers to almost all of our young patients having primary teeth extracted. This small device can save time, money and headaches by preventing the need for extensive orthodontic work or surgery to correct the adult tooth’s position.
On top of the retainers offered specifically at our office, there are a number of more complex devices aimed at maintaining tooth position. These appliances can be more discreet, maintain difficult cases or even provide mild repositioning or realignment. For our patients needing these devices, we will typically refer out to our network of wonderful orthodontists. They all have countless hours studying and fabricating these retainers, and can bring years of experience to your needs. After a consultation, we will gladly refer you out to a specialist to best suit your specific case.
As with any of the services offered at our office, a consultation and exam are necessary to determine the best type of retainer for your personal needs. If you are interested in having an appliance made, or have more questions about the process, please give us a call. We are happy to assist you with every step towards optimal oral health!