Pros and Cons of Permanent Retainers

Dr. Eric Paul Gibbs Orthodontist New York, NY

I feel very fortunate to be continuing in the footsteps of my father in the dental field. I have found a profession that is most rewarding and allows me to be involved in the lives of so many people and families. I am a people person who loves to talk and share stories of family and friends, and I love to hear about the... more

Permanent retainers are made of a metal wire that is attached to your teeth. This wire is either smooth or solid, sometimes having a braided texture. It is fastened to your teeth and is fitted to your bite to prevent them from shifting or becoming crooked.

Orthodontists frequently recommend permanent retainers after braces to prevent your teeth from returning to their original position.

Your orthodontist may also recommend one if you are having problems complying with their detachable retainer recommendations. However, a specific amount of tooth surface area is required for the bonding material to secure the retainer in place.

For the best long-term results, orthodontists frequently combine detachable and permanent retainers. 

Let's look at how permanent retainers function, how they compare to other types of retainers, and how to clean and maintain them to keep your best smile.

About permanent retainers

Permanent retainers are also known as bonded retainers, lingual wire, or fixed retainers. They are more commonly used on the teeth of the lower jaw.

Since it is attached or bonded to the back surface of your teeth, the retainer is known as a lingual wire. Lower teeth, such as the cuspids (canine teeth), are simpler to secure the bonding material for good long-term use.

If your permanent retainer irritates your gums or teeth or if it causes excessive plaque or tartar buildup on the teeth around it, your dentist or orthodontist may remove it.

A permanent or bonded retainer can range in price from $150 to $500 to install or replace if lost or broken. The initial placement fee may be included in the total cost of your braces.

Permanent vs. removable retainers

Advantages of permanent retainers:

  • Since you don't have to put it on and take it off, it's easier to maintain your teeth in place when your braces come off.
  •  It's bonded behind your teeth, so no one else knows it's there but you.
  • It has little to no influence on your ability to communicate, so you don't have to be embarrassed about wearing it in public.
  • It's impossible to lose because it's firmly fastened with dental glue.
  • It is tough to harm from the typical daily use of your mouth.
  • Since the retainer is always in place, it maintains your teeth and helps keep them straight.

Advantages of removable retainers:

  • You can remove them whenever you want, such as eating or brushing your teeth.
  • It only takes 30 seconds to one minute to obtain an impression (mold) of your mouth to create a detachable retainer that will endure for years.
  • You may easily clean them by soaking them in one of the many cleaning solutions on the market. This is strongly advised because bacteria can quickly accumulate on plastic detachable retainers.
  • Flossing is easy because you can remove the retainer.
  • Because lower teeth can bite on an upper fixed retainer, removable retainers may be preferable for upper teeth. This can make the retainer less secure or cause it to break.

If you believe it will be difficult to use a retainer for comfort or cosmetic reasons, a permanent retainer is a perfect option for a retainer that must be worn or removed all the time. However, each retainer type has advantages and disadvantages.

Cons of permanent retainers

Here are some things to think about and potential negatives of permanent retainers:

  • The technique for attaching a permanent retainer can be time-consuming and unpleasant. A retainer can often take up to an hour to adhere to your teeth. For a removable retainer, all you need to do is take a short imprint that an orthodontist may use to create one that fits your mouth.
  • Brushing and flossing around a permanent retainer is more complicated. If you do not properly clean around your permanent retainer, your risk of cavities and gum disease increases.
  • It can be uncomfortable to have a metal object in your mouth constantly. Your tongue may come into contact with the wire. If the bond or wire snaps, your tongue may get irritated or scraped.
  • Consuming certain foods may alter their effectiveness. Biting into tough items, such as an entire apple or a rough steak, can cause the wire to flex out of shape. Foods containing artificial sugars or comparable additives, such as soda, might wear away at the bonding substance, potentially weakening the retainer's attachment to the teeth.
  • The wire could break or debond, necessitating repair or replacement. To have a new one created, you may have to pay a replacement charge.

Cleaning your permanent retainer and teeth

Clean your retainer every day to keep it in good condition and to preserve the teeth around it. Brush regularly, getting your bristles in and out of all the crevices between the teeth so that no area is overlooked, particularly locations near the bonded material or behind the wire itself.

In conclusion

Permanent retainers are a more practical option than removable plastic retainers, but they are not for everyone.

Discuss your dental objectives and needs with a dentist or orthodontist (you can obtain numerous opinions) to determine what's best for you.