After you get your braces off, your orthodontist may place a permanent retainer in your mouth.
But does “permanent” really mean forever? What happens if you don’t take care of it?
What Is a Permanent Retainer?
A permanent retainer (aka a bonded retainer or fixed retainer) involves a metal bar or wire that holds your teeth where they are, keeping them from shifting. Typically, these are used after a braces removal, after your teeth are nicely aligned.
In most cases, a permanent retainer is places behind the bottom front teeth and is cemented in place. The bottom front teeth are the most likely to shift, hence the retainer.
Bonded retainers are different than a Vivera, Essix, or a custom Hawley retainer, which all are removable. But once a retainer is fixed to your teeth, it’s not coming out unless something goes wrong (more on that below).
Pros of Permanent Retainers
The biggest benefit of a permanent retainer is that there’s no chance of human error. It’s impossible to forget to wear it because it’s been fused to your teeth. That way, you don’t even have to think about it.
Another good thing about a bonded retainer is that it’s invisible to other people. Because it’s located behind your teeth, others can’t see it unless you specifically open your mouth and show them.
Lastly, there’s no need to adjust it or replace it. A lot of people who wear a fixed retainer eventually forget they have one.
Cons of Permanent Retainer
As good as permanent retainers sound, they do have some downsides.
Wearing one can make it difficult to clean your teeth thoroughly, whether it’s you cleaning or if it’s a dentist teeth cleaning. The wire can trap food debris and bacteria, which can increase your chances of oral health issues. This can make it hard to floss properly or get all the crevices with your toothbrush.
Also, just like any other type of dental device, a permanent retainer can get damaged or simply wear down after a long time. So, despite it being called “permanent,” it is possible you may have to replace it at some point.
And lastly, a permanent retainer can just become uncomfortable. It can rub against your tongue and be annoying.
Permanent Retainer Removal
If you do need to get your orthodontic retainer removed, it may be one of a few reasons.
Just like any dental appliance, a bonded retainer and be damage. It can happen from eating hard foods, from a mouth injury, or if it became unattached from your teeth. That’s why it’s important to have regular dental checkups so your dentist can keep an eye on it.
A permanent retainer is attached to your teeth with cement, and that means that calculus could build up in those areas. If a combo of plaque and bacteria build up and harden, it can hurt your teeth and gums.
There’s not a set amount of time that a permanent retainer will last — some people have worn the retainers for up to 20 years. And in most cases, there aren’t any negative long-term effects.
But in some cases, the retainer can get worn down so much that it needs to be replaced.
If you start to experience pain around the area of the retainer, that may mean that your teeth have shifted a bit and are causing discomfort. In the case of pain, you should contact your orthodontist and/or dentist right away.
Removing Your Permanent Retainer
If you’ve experienced any of these problems and you need your retainer taken out, you’ll need to see an orthodontist. Because it’s cemented on, the professional may have to use special tools to detach the retainer.
Can you remove your retainer at home? Well, technically you could try. But that’s a terrible idea. You could seriously injure yourself, damage your teeth, and still be unsuccessful in removing the retainer.
Permanent Retainer Cost
A permanent retainer can be quite pricey, but remember that it’s meant to keep your teeth straight for decades.
A bonded retainer can cost up to $500 for one (so about $1,000 if you get a retainer on your lower and upper).
Take Care of Your Permanent Retainer
Permanent retainers do need special care. Because there’s a piece of wire in your mouth, you’ll need to make sure you clean the area very thoroughly. And that starts with knowing how to floss.
When it comes to flossing, simply floss like you normally would but also make sure you floss between the retainer and the back of your teeth so you dislodge any food debris. To be extra through, you could pick up a water flosser, which would shoot a stream of water into places that are hard to reach with traditional floss. You can also make sure the toothbrush bristles get in between the wire.
A crucial step in taking care of your retainer is visiting the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. This keeps the bacteria buildup at bay and it allows the dental professionals to keep an eye on your retainer, making sure it’s still entacted.
- A permanent retainer is a piece of metal or wire that’s affixed to the back of your teeth (usually the bottom front) that keeps your teeth from shifting after they’ve been aligned.
- The main benefit of a permanent retainer is that you can set it and forget it, ensuring your teeth stay aligned.
- The biggest downside of a permanent retainer is the potential for bacteria and plaque buildup.
- Reasons for getting your fixed retainer removed include a damaged retainer, calculus buildup, long-term wear and tear, and pain. As for removal, only an orthodontist should take out the retainer.
- Taking care of your permanent retainer can take a bit of extra work, like making sure to floss in between the retainer and your teeth. You can use traditional floss, toothbrush bristles, or a water flosser.