Prior to completing active treatment I conducted a fair amount of research into long term retention and different types of retainers. From this I concluded that the regular, life long, use of a retainer is essential to prevent relapse and to maintain the result I and my orthodontist worked so hard to achieve.
After a discussion with my orthodontist, we agreed I would get three different types of retainers, fixed retainers, Essix retainers and Hawley retainers and this post is my six-month reflection on fixed retainers.
My fixed retainers span the front six teeth on the upper and lower arch and were fitted by my orthodontist immediately before my braces were removed. My initial impression was that they were unobtrusive and added a sense of security in that being bonded to the lingual surface of my teeth, would prevent any relapse with little effort from me. The wire is incredibly thin and is held in place with a small amount of composite on each tooth. The wire and composite feels slightly rough but not in an unpleasant way, I think you can best imagine it as a ‘matt’ finish rather than gloss which is what I was expecting.
It took no time at all to get used to the fixed retainers, they did not impact on my speech or eating at all and keeping them clean was fairly straightforward and I was able to use an inter-dental brush to clean under and around the wire. The lower is certainly easier to keep clean than the top as I can see it whereas the top requires the use of a mirror to check where I’m inserting my inter-dental brush. After a few weeks I found my tongue getting sore during the day and ended up using one of my removable retainers to provide a barrier. This continued for a while so I mentioned it at my first retainer review and some of the composite was filed away where we felt it may be causing irritation.
This did not fix the issue and if anything, the problem appeared to be getting worse with the need to use my removable retainers more frequently. On carefully thinking about the problem, I realised that I was forcing part of my tongue into the small space behind the wire which was causing the soreness. I mentioned this to my orthodontist who then built up the composite on each tooth to reduce the expanse of wire. This has, to an extent, alleviated part of the problem, it is still possible to get my tongue into the space but it now takes more effort which means I can catch myself doing it sooner and make a conscious effort to stop this annoying habit.
So overall what are my impressions of a fixed retainer? I like the security it provides in that is is effective all the time with no effort required from my part. For long periods of time, I’m barely aware that they are in place and simply forget about them and when I’m not forcing my tongue into the gaps behind the wire, they are unobtrusive and comfortable. They are not difficult to keep clean and I’m not aware of any other dental problem being caused by these retainers.
On talking to a number of people who have fixed retainers, I know they all adapted far quicker than I did and give little thought to having one. I strongly believe the benefits of this type of retainer far outweigh any negative aspect and I’m delighted I made the decision to get them.