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What’s The Deal With Permanent Retainers In Orthodontics?

What’s the Deal With Permanent Retainers in Orthodontics?

Over the past 20 plus years of practice as a specialist in orthodontics, there is one undeniable constant with a patient’s orthodontic treatment – teeth inevitably want to move back to their original positions. Our teeth continue to move as we age, particularly the front teeth. This was confirmed by an in-depth study done by the University of Washington some four decades ago. With that said, long-term, lifetime retainer wear after orthodontic treatment has been advocated as the standard of care for patients. Lack of retainer wear creates a high likelihood of teeth moving over time and the need for additional orthodontic treatment.

There are two basic types of retainers – removable and permanent (bonded) retainers.

The permanent retainer has evolved to a small, braided wire, contoured to the tongue-side of the front teeth, with small adhesive buttons holding the retainer to each tooth. The concept of this configuration is akin to each of the front teeth linking arms, preventing the neighboring teeth from moving. The placement of the wire on the tooth surface needs to be kept far enough away from the gum tissues for proper oral hygiene access and far enough away from the biting edge of the teeth to prevent seeing it. Retainers on the upper front teeth have some inherent limitations. You cannot use them behind the upper front teeth if the anatomy of the teeth and/or the bite relationship of the opposing teeth would result in knocking off the retainer or contacting and kinking the wire causing teeth to move in an undesired direction.

The use of permanent retainers is fantastic in the right circumstances. The ability of patients to maintain excellent oral hygiene and avoid chewing hard foods directly on these retainers are key factors in these retainers doing their job and lasting for years before needing replacement. Placed incorrectly or used in the wrong situations and all of your hard work during your orthodontic correction will be wasted.

At Team Orthodontics, we make sure we have an in-depth discussion with our patients and their parents about the pros and cons of retainer choice for their given orthodontic circumstances. Our goal for each and every patient is to keep that perfect smile for life!


Call or email us today to experience the difference that we provide our patients at Team Orthodontics.  Reach out to our Ahwatukee orthodontist office or our Gilbert orthodontist office and we’ll do our best to help you out with all your orthodontic needs.

Written by Dr. Ken Danyluk, Orthodontist at Team Orthodontics