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Retainers are orthodontic devices that are worn after braces are removed.  The purpose of retainers is to keep your teeth in alignment following orthodontic treatment.  Retainers can be removable or permanent and custom-made to fit your mouth.  They may be worn for several years.

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You will wear your braces until your teeth have moved into proper alignment and bite problems have been corrected.  Retainers are used to help your teeth and gums “retain” their new positions after your braces are removed.  Without a retainer, your teeth would move out of place and become crooked again.

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Your braces will be removed when your orthodontist determines that your desired result has been achieved.  Your orthodontist will take “after” photos of your teeth and smile.  A mold will be made of your upper and lower teeth and gums.  The mold is used as a model to create your retainers.  Retainers are removable plastic pieces.  They may be made of plastic with metal attachments for your teeth or of all clear plastic. 

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Retainers can removable or permanent and worn for various periods of time.  Your orthodontist will provide you with a wearing schedule.  At first, they are usually worn all day and all night.  They may be removed for eating meals and cleaning.  Your orthodontist will let you know when you may progress to wearing your retainers less frequently.
You should clean your retainer each time you brush your teeth—in the morning, at night, and after meals.  You may clean your retainer with a toothbrush and toothpaste or a specially formulated cleaner for retainers.  When you are not wearing your retainer, carefully place it in your retainer box.  Keep your retainer box in a safe place where it can not be lost or broken.
The material that your retainer is made of can crack if it gets too dry.  You should soak your retainer in water or a safe cleansing solution when it is out of your mouth for a long time.  The plastic material may also bend or warp if it is near heat.  Be careful not to put your retainer in hot water or on a hot surface.
It is important to attend all of your orthodontic appointments, as your retainers may need adjusting over time.  Retainers are typically worn for several years.  Your orthodontist will let you know what to expect.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit