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When is a Retainer Used Rather Than Braces?

I would rather not get braces to correct my crooked teeth. How effective are retainers when used as an alternative to braces?

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Using a Retainer rather than braces

A retainer is used when there is limited movement of the teeth and they need to be aligned.  Sometimes, if you have a couple of teeth to either push forward or push back, we can use this spring retainer to be able to align without having to use braces.  However, when space needs to be regained or the movement is too great to be done with a retainer, we do have to use braces to be able to align the teeth.  It is our goal upon initial examination to be able to pick the patients out that can be aligned with spring aligners versus using braces.  However, if you still do not want braces and you want to use a retainer, Invisalign is another option that we can use in teeth that have been severely displaced to align perfectly which could be considered to be a retainer in a sense.  Nonetheless, an orthodontic examination is needed to decide which treatment option would be the best.

Gainesville Orthodontist

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Orthodontic Retainers Are Best for Retaining

Although there are some very small changes to your teeth that can be made with removable retainers, retainers primarily "retain" or hold your teeth in their current position. As an orthodontist, I use retainers to hold teeth in position after I move them. At times I may add a little wire here or there to slightly shift a tooth forward or backward, but I have very little control of tooth movement with a retainer. When pushing a tooth forward, the tooth almost always moves up too (due to the shape of the tooth and the direction of force). When pushing teeth back, which only works if there are spaces between them, I almost always see changes in the length of the teeth which I can't prevent. In my practice I use braces and Invisalign to move teeth. I use retainers to retain the final positions after I've moved the teeth.

Greg Jorgensen, DMD, MS
Albuquerque Orthodontist

Difference between retainers and braces

Both retainers and braces are devices designed to align our teeth and keep them straight.  Braces straighten teeth and come in many styles and types depending on care needed.  They pull teeth toward a particular direction until teeth are straight.  Retainers are made from wire or plastic and hold or retain teeth in place after a certain treatment.  Retainers are removable and they need to be worn after all orthodontic treatment to prevent relapse. Make the investment in both and you will not regret it!  You will have a beautiful smile and a healthy gums and teeth!

George Koutsoukos, DDS
Valencia Cosmetic Dentist

Retainers rather than braces

Technically retainers do not move teeth at all..that's why they are called retainers!  Orthodontists however often can add springs and wires to removable appliances to do simple tooth movements ; everyone calls these appliances retainers even though they are actually active removable appliances.

Invisalign appliances look exactly like clear removable retainers but they can do some pretty amazing corrections.  Other types of retainer type appliances are much more limited in what they can do. 

Only a well trained orthodontist can tell you what is best for your problem

Robert Waxler, DMD, MS
Saint Louis Orthodontist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.