When it comes to achieving a straight and beautiful smile, orthodontic treatments have come a long way. Two popular options for correcting teeth misalignment are dental retainers and dental aligners. While both solutions aim to improve dental aesthetics and functionality, they differ in their approach and usage. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between dental retainers and dental aligners, helping you make an informed decision about which option suits your needs best.

Understanding Dental Retainers

Definition and purpose of dental retainers

Retainers are an important part of any orthodontic treatment. They hold your teeth in place once your braces come off to keep them in their new positions.

Many people believe that using a retainer for several months or a few years will be enough to keep their teeth straight for life. However, the jaw generates such force when chewing and speaking that your teeth can always move back after receiving and orthodontic treatment. For this reason, it's important to wear a retainer after your teeth are straightened for as long as your dentist advises.

Types of dental retainers: fixed and removable

There are two types of retainers you can opt for after an orthodontic treatment. Fixed retainers are wires permanently bonded to the back of your front 6 teeth to keep them in place. Removable retainers are made of a strong, clear plastic that, like the name suggests, can be removed.

Which type of retainer works for you will depend on your teeth and your needs. Talk to your dentist to figure out which type you should get.

How dental retainers work to maintain teeth alignment 

Even after your teeth are straightened with braces, they're not fully firm in their new positions. Your gums, bones, and muscles of your mouth can shift your teeth back to their original positions over time if you don't wear your retainer.

While braces can help straighten your teeth, once they come off the force they exert on your mouth is gone. Without a retainer, your teeth will shift back to their original positions. That's why it's important to wear a retainer.

Ideal candidates for dental retainers

If you've successfully had a treatment with braces, you're likely a good candidate for a retainer as well. Other good candidates for retainers include

  • Patients with a tooth gap in one or two teeth: Retainers can help you avoid a full braces treatment in these cases.
  • Tongue thrust, a condition that causes your tongue to come through your teeth when you talk
  • Temporomandibular disorder (TMD), caused by teeth that don't fit together correctly when your jaw is closed
  • Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can also be solved by a retainer

Pros and cons of using dental retainers

The American Association of Orthodontists recommend that you should wear a retainer for the rest of your life overnight, after an initial stabilization period of full-time wear. While that may seem daunting to some patients, the benefits of a retainer are many:

  • Retainers are more comfortable than many other treatments
  • They're less noticeable than other treatments
  • Retainers maintain the positive changes you've achieved through braces
  • They're custom-designed for your mouth
  • Retainers are effective treatment for a wide variety of orthodontic issues
  • They're easy to wear and clean

Unveiling Dental Aligners

Definition and purpose of dental aligners

In contrast to a retainer, a dental aligner is a clear, hard plastic device formed to your teeth that helps them move into proper position over time. If you have teeth that just need a little adjusting, or that have shifted from their corrected position, a clear aligner can be a great solution.

Clear aligner systems like Invisalign® work much like braces, but use clear, medical-grade plastic instead of wires. First, your orthodontist will make an impression of your teeth. Then, they'll use software to plan out where each of your teeth will go in order to straighten into their final positions.

After your impressions have been made and your treatment plan finalized, multiple sets of aligners will be made. As your treatment progresses, you'll switch out aligners to successively-more-aligned sets until your treatment is finished.

Benefits of dental aligners compared to traditional braces

Clear aligners offer a number of benefits over traditional metal braces:

  • Because aligners can be removed for cleaning, they allow easier brushing and flossing
  • Food doesn't stick to aligners like it does to braces
  • Because aligners are all of one piece, they don't require adjustment or repairs
  • Aligners generally look better than braces

Factors to consider when choosing dental aligners

When choosing dental aligners, make sure to consult with your dentist as to what option is best for your mouth shape and tooth arrangement. Your orthodontist might recommend you choose a particular brand or eschew aligners altogether for braces.

Choosing the Right Orthodontic Solution

Evaluation of personal orthodontic needs

Every mouth is different—which is why it's vital to talk with your dentist and orthodontist when considering an orthodontic treatment. They'll provide valuable advice and experience from previous patients that will help you make an informed choice.

Cost considerations for dental retainers and dental aligners

On average, retainers are cheaper than aligners, but retainers are usually part of an overall treatment plan including braces. Aligners cost about the same as metal braces—anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000, depending on the type and your insurance.

Dental Aligners vs. Dental Retainers: Which should I choose?

Dental retainers and dental aligners offer effective solutions for correcting teeth misalignment, but they differ in terms of usage, effectiveness, and suitability for individual cases. By understanding the unique features of each option, you can make an informed decision about which orthodontic solution is best for you. Consulting with your dentist or orthodontist is crucial in determining the most suitable treatment plan to achieve your desired smile. Remember, the key is to prioritize long-term dental health and aesthetics for a confident and beautiful smile.

June 30, 2023 — Sean Kundrock

Leave a comment