Retention: What You Need to Know

Your quest for straight teeth and a pearly smile appears to be coming to fruition. Here is what to expect from here on out!


The months, perhaps years, of enduring a mouth full of metal braces will soon come to an end. It’s a time of excitement and anxiety. The anxious feelings are probably due to not knowing what to expect when the orthodontist removes your braces.

You knew what to expect before you had a smile filled with wire and brackets. It was clearly explained that you would need to adjust your diet by:

  • Avoid foods that may stick, such as gum, caramels, toffee and the like.
  • Avoid hard foods such as nuts, jolly ranchers, raw carrots and apples, among others.
  • Reduce sweets such as cake, candy, pie and cookies.
  • Cut down on sugary drinks like soda, Kool-Aid, and sweetened tea.

Having braces was a big commitment. You sacrificed diet, convenience, and appearance. So now what?

Removing braces is a relatively easy process that takes approximately one hour.

When your orthodontist examines your teeth, they will advise on the best time to have the braces removed, provided your teeth will not move unexpectedly. To control the movement of teeth during treatment, a bond is usually formed between the braces and the teeth. Although the bond is a bit strong, it allows for easy removal of the braces when the treatment is complete.

By squeezing the base of the bracket, the bond becomes weaker and allows for the removal of the bracket.

Your orthodontist must remove the adhesive that is left on the tooth surface after removal.  The process of removing braces and the adhesive will not hurt. You can only expect that your teeth will be sensitive to pressure. However, you will experience some discomfort when the bracket is squeezed.

Removing the adhesive on the teeth involves the use of a dental handpiece, similar to the one used during cavity repair.

However, unlike when repairing a cavity, this process has very little discomfort since it does not involve removal of any tooth structure. Only the adhesive is removed, with the enamel of your teeth remaining in its normal condition.

Once the braces have been removed, the appearance of your teeth will depend on how well you cared for them during the treatment period.

While your teeth may feel slimy at this point, this feeling will go away after a period of brushing and flossing. Your orthodontist may also recommend retainers to prevent your teeth from moving out of place.

To care for your teeth properly, you should avoid bleaching or whitening for at least one month, avoid chewing forbidden foods and schedule dental cleaning.

And before getting your braces off, it’s a terrific idea to take a picture. You’ll appreciate the before and after images. It’s also a reminder about the reward you’re enjoying from the braces sacrifice. Smile and the world smiles with you!


Your mouth isn’t free and clear of necessary supports and you will most likely require a retainer. The last thing you want is to forfeit your investment and have your teeth slip back where they were. You can expect to receive one of three types of retainers.

  • Hawley Retainers: This common type is removable and fits into the roof of your mouth. It’s custom-fitted specifically for your mouth.
  • Essix Retainer: This is a clear removable model that fits over your teeth.
  • Fixed Retainers: This type is often cemented right to your lower canine teeth. You’ll need to take care when eating and brushing not to damage it.

Retainers are used to prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original position. Wearing your retainer consistently is important, so picking the right retainer for your lifestyle is a big decision.

Hawley Retainers

This is what most people think of when they hear the word “retainer.” Hawley retainers are composed of plastic or acrylic, along with some bendable wire. The plastic or acrylic part of the retainer is molded to fit inside of your mouth, while the wire part is responsible for holding your teeth in place. This type of retainer is easy to clean and won’t prevent your teeth from fitting together naturally. It is easily taken out, easily cleaned, and easily adjusted as your teeth move. Over time, many people start to wear them only at night. However, they are also very obvious. People will be able to see the wire while you are wearing the retainer, and you may notice differences in your speech patterns.

Essix Retainers

Essix retainers are made of clear plastic. They are molded to fit perfectly around your teeth and are easily removable. The Essix retainer is much less obvious than the Hawley retainer, allowing you to wear it with less embarrassment. It is popular because there are no metal wires, making it nearly invisible. However, this type of retainer is not as durable and must be replaced every few years. The Essix retainer also prevents your top and bottom teeth from touching naturally, and it is difficult to clean thoroughly. Furthermore, the Essix retainer can trap liquids, holding them against your teeth until the retainer is removed. This retainer might be a good choice if you do not want visible wires, and if you do not mind working a little harder to keep it clean.

Fixed Retainers

A fixed, or permanent, retainer is a thin metal wire. It is bonded behind your teeth and cannot be taken in and out. A fixed retainer stays in all day, every day. Because this retainer is in your mouth all the time, it holds your teeth in place well. It is also placed in the back of the teeth, so it won’t be visible to others (unless somebody is peeking into your mouth!). However, like with braces, food and bacteria can get trapped between the wire and your teeth, so careful cleaning is a must. A fixed retainer makes flossing difficult. Most people must use a special type of floss in order to clean teeth connected to a fixed retainer. A fixed retainer can also injure the tongue. Fixed retainers are the right fit if you don’t ever want to worry about remembering your retainer.

To determine which retainer is best for you, schedule your consultation today with Dr. Saleh and his staff at Perfect Smiles. Regardless of the retainer design you choose, be sure to follow instructions carefully for the best results.

Return to Food

During your braces phase, you probably just cut certain foods out of your diet altogether. After a few days, bite into an apple and enjoy the knowledge that food is your friend again.

Listen and Learn

Every case is a little different. Your orthodontist may have specific instructions to follow. It’s imperative that you heed his/her advice. You’ve gotten this far. Finish the task. Beautiful teeth are for life.

Wisdom May Not Be Smart

When wisdom teeth burst through your gums, they can disrupt everything you’ve accomplished by getting braces. Wisdom teeth can cause major tooth shifts. Discuss having them removed with your orthodontist.

Proper Care

After braces, you won’t suddenly have Superman’s teeth. You will enjoy a lovely, straight smile that requires good oral hygiene. Brush and floss every day. Follow your dentist’s instructions.

If you have any questions about the removal of braces, the process of the retention phase, don’t hesitate to contact our office!

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