Fixed Retainers

Broadly speaking, a retainer is just a brace that is used to stabilize the position of the teeth following orthodontic treatment. The name comes from the word ‘to retain’ which means to grip. There are both fixed and removable braces. Fixed braces are usually thin metal wires that are invisible from the outside. They are fixed to the inside of the teeth where they can remain for the whole of a person’s life. The main advantage of the retainer is that provides reliable stabilization of the teeth whilst disadvantages include hygiene complications and occasional problems with the adhesive joints.

The two-joint retainer is made from 0.7mm thick, gold-plated steel wire. The advantages of this device are that it is easier to clean the gaps between the incisors and also the patient always knows immediately when one of the adhesive joints has broken. But it does not hold the incisors in place quite so well and sometimes they twist a little in spite of the retainer. The six-joint retainer is made from 0.4 mm thin, braided steel wire. It is much more comfortable and also more reliable than the model with two joints. Because of this, it is more work from a hygiene point of view – but you don’t get anything for nothing!

The commonest kinds of removable retainers is use are the plate devices and transparent plastic strips, occasionally also positioners but less common are the bi-maxillary appliances like the activator. From a hygienic point of view, removable braces are of course ideal but they are often unreliable because they are not worn for long enough by many patients or they can be lost.

A fixed retainer with two joints on the corner teet

A fixed retainer with six joints on all the front teeth