Clear Transparent or Essix Retainer

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To do away with some of the disadvantages of the Hawley’s retainer, the Essix or clear transparent retainer was introduced. This retainer looks very similar to the clear aligners, but unlike the aligners, it doesn’t move teeth and instead holds teeth in their position. The clear retainer is of many types, the more popular one being the Essix retainer. The trays are made using plastic or polyurethane material. The orthodontist or your dentist will take measurements of your upper and lower teeth and send them to the lab for the fabrication of the Essix retainer.

This type of retainer lasts for about 1-2 years(if maintained well). Compared to the Hawley’s and the fixed retainers, the advantages of the Clear Transparent retainer are:

  • It fits well and therefore, is better to hold the teeth in their positions
  • It is thinner, less bulky than the Hawley’s retainer
  • More comfortable than the Hawley’s retainer
  • They are transparent trays that do not have a wire. So, they are practically invisible when worn on the teeth
  • Easy to remove and wear
  • Allows you to maintain good oral hygiene 
  • Multiple copies can be made easily

But, just like the Hawley’s retainer, the clear transparent retainers have their disadvantages:

  • Less durable and need to be replaced early
  • Easy to misplace or damage
  • Patient compliance is important
  • If the teeth move due to failure to wear the retainers, a new set will have to be made because minor tooth movements that are possible with Hawley’s retainers are not possible with the clear transparent ones
  • Can cause excess saliva production
  • If not cleaned and maintained properly, bacteria and fungus can grow on them
  • Can affect your speech more than the Hawley’s does
  • Discoloration or staining occurs over time
  • It can trap some food particles or liquid under it that can cause cavities

Fixed Retainer

Which retainer you must get is primarily based on your case and your orthodontist’s decision. Many a time, the orthodontist will fix aligners or an orthodontic metal wire towards the back or tongue-side of your teeth. This type of retainer is also called a lingually bonded retainer and is usually advised to those patients who are considered high risk for relapse. This retainer is fixed to your teeth and is meant to last for a lifetime.  

Compared to the removable retainers, the fixed retainer has many advantages:

  • No hassle of removing and wearing it every time you eat or brush
  • No remembering instructions on when to wear and how to wear your retainers
  • Not visible to others as it is placed behind your teeth
  • Durable and can last for years
  • Cannot get lost, broken or damaged
  • No excessive production of saliva is observed with the removable retainers

However, these retainers still have their disadvantages:

  • Difficult to maintain oral hygiene 
  • You cannot floss
  • Due to the wire, there is an increase in the tartar build-up around it, affecting tooth and gum health
  • The metal wire can irritate the tongue
  • In many cases, the teeth can still move in spite of the fixed retainer.

While each type of retainer has its advantages and disadvantages, you can discuss which one is best for you with your orthodontist. Many a time, orthodontists prefer to use a combination of retainers where they use a lingually bonded retainer in the lower teeth and give a Hawley’s or clear transparent retainer in the upper teeth. Are you nearing the end of your orthodontic treatment? Well, get ready for the retention phase! Do you have anything to share about retainers? Comment in the box below!

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