man with essix retainer smiling

What Is An Essix Retainer?

Retainers guide and maintain the position and alignment of teeth to create an attractive smile, and today there's quite a range to choose from. Essix retainers, in particular, are clear, slim molds that fit over your teeth. Your orthodontist might recommend an Essix retainer as the final stage in a course of orthodontic treatment, or as a complete alternative to braces.

Types of Retainers

Retainers are fixed or removable and made of wires or plastic. Essix retainers are removable retainers that are made entirely of transparent plastic, which makes them less noticeable than traditional wire retainers. Another benefit is that they encourage good dental hygiene; patients can take out their retainer when they brush and floss, and clean the retainer itself at the same time. Unlike some wire retainers, Essix retainers cover the entire arch of the teeth. But like the traditional Hawley, each one is uniquely molded to the shape of the patient's mouth.

How Essix Retainers Work

Essix retainers gently guide your teeth into a position where the upper and lower sets are even, straight and align with each other. Though your teeth may feel firmly set in your mouth, they move when under constant pressure, and can assume new positions in the mouth all on their own. Essix retainers maintain the intended position following orthodontic treatment, all while providing minor corrections to slightly misaligned teeth if needed.

Essix Retainer Care

With consistent wear, an Essix retainer should last the entire length of your treatment. When caring for your retainer, advises Kingston Hospital, be sure to:

  • Rinse the retainer in cold water every time you take it out and before you put it back in.
  • Store the retainer in a braces plastic case whenever you aren't wearing it.
  • Don't brush the retainer with toothpaste, as it can scratch the surface.
  • Brush the retainer after each meal with cool to luke warm water and a soft toothbrush.
  • Don't put the retainer in hot water, which will shrink it.
  • Wash the retainer with a specialized retainer cleaner once every two to three months.

How Long to Wear Your Retainer

The minimum time for the teeth to settle into their new positions after braces are removed is actually more than 230 days, and according to Kingston Hospital, the standard length of treatment with an Essix retainer is nine months to a year – as long as the retainer is worn every night. You might wear an Essix retainer for up to one year or longer. After that, patients need only wear their retainers at night once or twice a week. A study in the European Journal of Orthodontics, however, states that full-time wear immediately after a course of orthodontic treatment is also recommended. Your orthodontist can advise you on when and how long you should wear yours for the best results.

Living with Essix Retainers

As delicate as they are, wearing Essix retainers should be trouble-free, and your routine should remain the same. Floss your teeth once a day and brush twice a day, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste such as Colgate TotalSF Clean Mint. If your retainer begins to feel uncomfortable, it's a sign your teeth are moving out of position and you might not be wearing the retainer often enough. Wearing your retainer more will reduce this discomfort.

Essix retainers help patients feel less self-conscious about their orthodontic treatment. Follow your orthodontist's instructions closely to make the best use of yours, and you'll be on your way to straight, even and attractive teeth that never move out of position.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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