The Importance of Patient Retention in Orthodontics

Posted on May 1, 2023

Have you ever experienced getting your braces removed, only to have your teeth shift back to their previous position? This is a common issue that many patients face when they complete their orthodontic treatment. But why does this happen?

Orthodontic treatment involves aligning the teeth and jaws to improve their function and appearance. However, the success of orthodontic treatment doesn’t just end with the removal of braces or clear aligners. The post-treatment phase, known as the retention phase, is just as important to maintain the results achieved through orthodontic treatment.

Retention is an essential part of orthodontic treatment, as it helps to keep the teeth in their new position and prevent relapse. In this article, we will explore the importance of retention in orthodontics and why it is essential to ensure long-term success and a beautiful smile.

What is Retention?

Retention is the process of maintaining the position of teeth after orthodontic treatment has been completed.

This involves the use of retainers, which are custom-made appliances that keep teeth in their new positions. Retainers can be either fixed or removable, and they are typically worn for some time after orthodontic treatment.

If you are undergoing or have undergone orthodontic treatment, it’s important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions regarding retention to ensure long-term success.

Patient Retention Importance

The importance of retention in orthodontics cannot be overstated. After all, the whole point of orthodontic treatment is to move teeth into better positions to improve function and appearance. But if teeth are allowed to shift back to their original positions after treatment, the benefits of treatment will be lost. This is where retainers come into play, as they help to maintain teeth in their new positions and prevent relapse.

In summary, the good reasons why retainers are needed in orthodontics are:

  • Retention is crucial to maintain the results of orthodontic treatment.
  • It helps to prevent teeth from shifting back to their previous position.
  • Proper retention can minimize the need for additional orthodontic treatment.
  • Consistent use of retainers can prevent long-term complications such as skeletal relapse or bite changes.

The Retention Process

Retention is the process of maintaining the results of orthodontic treatment. It involves the use of special devices and techniques to keep teeth in their new position, prevent relapse, and prevent any other unfavorable changes. Here’s the process of retention in orthodontics:

Step 1: Evaluation

Before retention begins, the orthodontist will evaluate the patient’s teeth to determine the extent of tooth movement and the best retention method to use. Evaluation includes X-rays, models of the teeth, and visual inspections to evaluate the teeth’ alignment and occlusion.

Step 2: Fixed Retention

Fixed retention devices are bonded to the teeth after the braces have been removed. These devices include lingual retainers and bonded wires. Lingual retainers are thin wires fixed to the inner surfaces of the teeth, while bonded wires are attached to the back of the teeth. These devices are invisible to others and can only be removed by a professional.

Step 3: Removable Retention

Removable retention devices are also used to maintain the teeth’ position. These devices include Hawley retainers, clear retainers, and aligners. Hawley retainers and clear retainers are customized to fit the patient’s teeth and are used to keep teeth in place by applying constant pressure. Aligners are used in cases where mild relapse is present.

Step 4: Follow-up Appointments

Regular follow-up appointments with the orthodontist are necessary to ensure that the teeth are still in the correct position and that the retention devices are functioning correctly. The orthodontist will inspect the patient’s mouth during these appointments, adjust the retention devices, and evaluate the progress made.

Step 5: Long-term Retention

Retention after orthodontic treatment is a lifelong process. Even after the retention period is over, it is important to continue regular check-ups with the orthodontist to ensure that the teeth remain in their proper position.

How Long is Retention?

Retention in orthodontics is a crucial element in ensuring that the teeth and jaw stay in their corrected positions after orthodontic treatment. It is recommended that patients wear their retainers full-time for the first six months after their braces are removed, and then gradually decrease their usage to only at night.

However, retention is a lifelong process and patients should continue to wear their retainers as directed by their orthodontist in order to prevent relapse and maintain their straightened teeth.

The length of retention can vary depending on the individual case, but patients need to follow their orthodontist’s instructions to ensure the best long-term results.

Types of Orthodontic Retainers

Hawley Retainer

The Hawley retainer, also called the wire retainer, is the most common retainer type used today. It consists of a metal wire that goes around the teeth and is attached to an acrylic or plastic plate. The retainer is removable and can be customized to fit the shape of the teeth for maximum comfort. Hawley retainers are easy to maintain and clean, making them a popular choice; however, they may take some time to adjust to.

Essix Retainer

The Essix retainer, made of clear plastic, is often used as an alternative to the Hawley retainer. The Essix retainer may take the form of an invisible tray that fits over the teeth, making it more aesthetically appealing than the Hawley retainer. These retainers are form-fitting and virtually invisible, making them ideal for patients with mild to moderate orthodontic needs.

Fixed Retainer

A fixed dental retainer, also known as a bonded retainer, is a wire that is glued to the back of the front teeth. It is considered a more permanent type of retainer and is commonly recommended for individuals with severe malocclusions. Fixed retainers may require more meticulous oral hygiene care, as food particles can easily get trapped between the retainer and the teeth.

Vivera Retainer

Vivera retainers are removable retainers that are customized for each patient. These retainers are made from a clear, thermoplastic material, which can be more comfortable than wire retainers. Vivera retainers have a unique fitting process that ensures a precise fit to reduce shifting or rotations of teeth after the completion of orthodontic treatment.

Retention Tips

  • Wear your retainer as directed by your orthodontist.
  • Clean your retainer regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria and odor.
  • Keep your retainer in a safe place when not in your mouth to prevent loss or damage.
  • If your retainer feels uncomfortable or you experience any pain, contact your orthodontist immediately.


In conclusion, patient retention is a critical component of comprehensive orthodontic treatment. The retention phase plays a vital role in maintaining the results achieved through orthodontic treatment and preventing orthodontic relapse. Retainers, whether fixed or removable, are custom-made appliances designed to keep teeth in their new position. The retention process involves evaluation, fixed and removable retainers, follow-up appointments, and long-term retention.

By following an orthodontist’s instructions regarding retention, patients can enjoy the long-term success of their orthodontic treatment and maintain a beautiful smile. It’s important to remember that retention is a lifelong process, and regular check-ups with an orthodontist are necessary to ensure the teeth remain in their proper position. Contact OrthoSynetics today for more information!