What is a retainer and why is it key to maintain a perfect smile?

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Author: Ana Mikuličić , dr. med. dent.


Retainer is a splint (mobile retention) or wire (fixed retention) that keeps the teeth in a new desired position after an orthodontic therapy.

Retention is required for all patients whose irregularities in the dental arch have been corrected with a fixed or mobile device. It should be worn constantly for the first 3-4 months, except during meals, and then for at least another 12 months to keep the teeth in their most favorable position in the bone.

The wire retainer is placed from canine to canine, made of a sufficiently thick wire resistant to deformation; such a retainer can last in the mouth for many years; it is more reliable and better tolerated by patients than a mobile retainer that must be worn constantly; the disadvantage of these retainers is that they make oral hygiene difficult in the interdental spaces.

A mobile retainer (splint) it is made based on the tooth impression immediately after an orthodontic therapy; it has the great advantage of being removable, which makes it easier to maintain oral hygiene. The disadvantage is that it requires disciplined wearing. After completion of therapy, it should be worn 24 hours a day for the first 3 months; in the next stage, wearing is gradually reduced during the day while still being worn at night; after 6 months it is worn only at night. While wearing the retainer, the consumption of colored and hot drinks, as well as smoking and eating, is by no means recommended.

The mobile retainer is cleaned with water only, and with a toothpaste brush. While not in the mouth, it is kept in a box on dry land, not in a glass of water due to the accumulation of limescale.


The retention phase is as important as the active phase of therapy; it is crucial to keep the teeth in the new desired position because the teeth at this stage are very sensitive to the surrounding tissues and bone that is temporarily softened during the treatment phase. Keeping the teeth in new positions during the retention phase will allow time for the tissue to strengthen, preventing the teeth from moving in the future.

The likelihood of tooth displacement is high so it is important to wear retainers regularly as prescribed by the dentist, to avoid the teeth returning to their original position.