Permanent (Fixed) Retainers: What Are They and Who Would Need One?

One type of retainer that isn’t talked about very often is the permanent or fixed retainer. Unlike retainers that you can take out (removable), a fixed retainer is a piece of wire glued or bonded to teeth on the tongue side or lingual side that cannot be taken out. This type of retainer is the best option to prevent teeth from shifting once braces are removed – but they aren’t for everyone. Fixed retainers require the same level of dental hygiene care, including the use of threaders or special flossers to clean between teeth – just like the ones used for braces. People with permanent retainers also have to continue to limit foods that could break or dislodge the wire like ice cubes (chewing on ice), crunchy foods, or super-sticky foods – just like when wearing braces. The bonding sites where the retainer is attached to the teeth can also be an extra surface that allows for the formation of plaque or possibly decay. On the flip side, they don’t come out, get lost, accidentally thrown away at a restaurant, or chewed up by the monster under your bed… ahem, I mean, the family dog. And, of course, it’s tough to NOT be compliant with retainer use when it’s glued right to your teeth!

Who might need a fixed retainer?

Fixed retainers are ideal for more difficult cases that required longer treatment to adjust the bite and straighten teeth or required a greater amount of movement to adjust teeth to the correct position. These types of cases are at high risk for shifting without 100% consistency in wearing retainers, so using a permanent retainer for up to several years after braces can be the best way to keep teeth in alignment. Depending on the case, sometimes kids who benefit from phase I treatment will have a permanent retainer until it’s time to start their phase II treatment to prevent teeth from shifting between phases. And some people just prefer a fixed retainer because it fits better with their lifestyle and don’t mind the additional time required for proper dental hygiene.

Just remember, even if you get a permanent or fixed retainer doesn’t mean you are done having check-ups with me! The “glue” that bonds the wire to the teeth can wear away over time, eventually allowing the wire to come loose. You will still have to have periodic orthodontic check-ups to make sure your fixed retainer stays fixed and also to keep an eye out for any signs of cavities or decay.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our Seabreeze Orthodontics Retainers Week! If you have any questions about retainers, if you have damaged or lost your retainers, or even if you just moved to town and might have left your retainers in a hotel room in Kentucky, feel free to give us a call at 843.903.3300!