How Retainers Are Made


Your retainer has a big job to do, which means taking proper care of it and wearing it often are key components in your orthodontic treatment plan. Seemingly tiny, this important piece of your treatment is responsible for keeping your teeth in their new, proper positions for the rest of your life. You’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to achieve a perfect smile. Be sure to maintain that smile by wearing your retainer.

These little gadgets are crucial to your success, but how exactly are they made? It’s actually pretty fascinating!

Taking Impressions

The first step of the process is taking impressions of the teeth. This is done once braces have come off and your teeth are now in their proper positions. Most standard retainers are handmade, which explains why replacing them can be costly, as each retainer is also custom-fitted to a patient’s mouth. Most impressions are performed with a compound, which is poured into a tray. The tray is inserted into the mouth and your teeth are set into the tray. It normally takes about a minute for the impressions to set. Once removed, a model can be constructed for your retainer.

Making the Retainer

A Hawley retainer consist of only a few parts, including:

  • Wires
  • Labial bow
  • Ball clasps
  • Acrylic

To make the standard retainers that we are familiar with, the model that is made from your teeth’s impressions will be fitted with wire. A technician will bend wires around the model and secure them with acrylic. The acrylic will be built around the wire and allowed to harden. The acrylic compound comes in a variety of colors, which makes picking out your retainer fun, because you get to express yourself and your style.

Once the acrylic compound hardens, it will be pressurized and cured, then trimmed to its proper size and shaped to comfortably fit your mouth. The last steps in the process are polishing it to give it a glossy appearance and sterilizing it so it’s ready for wear. Now, the retainer is ready for its final fitting. Some adjustments may need to be done to the retainer for maximum comfort, but these adjustments tend to be minor.

An Essix retainer includes:

  • A transparent, plastic like material

Essix retainers are heated in a machine to soften the plastic and are vacuum suctioned to the model of your teeth. The essix material is then trimmed and edges are smoothed as to make the fit more comfortable. These clear retainers fit snuggly over the teeth and snap into place.

Retainer Responsibilities

Now that your braces are off, you have a new set of responsibilities. These new responsibilities include caring for your retainer and wearing it per your orthodontist’s instructions. At first, you’ll need to wear your retainer at all times because shifting of the teeth, especially as soon as braces are removed, can happen. After about a year, you will probably be instructed to only wear your retainer at night for the rest of your life, because shifting of the teeth can still occur at all times.

So, now that you know all about how retainers are made, you’ll be sure to take care of yours and appreciate the impact these small gadgets have on the success of your treatment.

The Charleston Orthodontic Specialists team is excited to help you achieve a simply spectacular smile! Call (843) 4-BRACES to learn more.

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