Everyone wants a great smile, but getting it can sometimes require wearing braces for two or more years with guidance by an orthodontist – who, rest assured, is uniquely qualified to help you reach that goal. Once the "active" treatment has ended, however, your new smile needs to be maintained by a retainer, the most common of which is the hawley retainer.
This appliance literally "retains" your teeth's position by stabilizing them while the bone hardens around them. Patience through this portion of treatment is key to maintaining your new smile.
Elements of a Hawley Retainer
The hawley appliance is one of the oldest types of retainers used post-treatment. A removable item, it's made of a combination of plastic and metal that is molded custom to fit your mouth. As you've probably seen, the wires sit against the six front teeth with loops near the canines that allow for minor adjustments as the teeth settle into place.
Because of these plastic and wire components, though, this retainer can be distorted or changed by heat or damage from impact, so handle with care. Orthodontists typically fabricate a retainer for each arch and encourage you to wear it regularly for upwards of two years. Initially, the retainer should be worn near full-time (16-18 hours daily). Usually after a few months, your orthodontist will reduce the amount of wear you'll need to keep things in place each day.
Caring for Your Retainer
Caring for this removable device is paramount for successful retention of your smile. Not only is this appliance fragile, but it is also expensive to replace – so keep it safe and make sure your kids don't lose it when at school (it's easy to throw out with their lunch as they take it out to eat). Keeping your retainer safe and clean will only expedite the end result of a stable smile. It is possible for them to become distorted or break, of course, but keep in mind it will set back treatment. A new retainer can take a week or more to be remade. Proper care and storage should include:
- Cleaning daily to remove bacteria and food debris.
- Keeping away from heat or hot water.
- Storing in its case when not in the mouth.
Cleaning Your Retainer
Cleaning your retainer is akin to cleaning your teeth: Brush it gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush and Colgate® Max Fresh® Shockwave™ toothpaste. You can also soak it in a cleaning agent similar to a denture cleaner a few times per week to freshen and kill germs that sit in the grooves of the mold. As always, it is best to follow your orthodontist's recommendation for how to clean your type of retainer – hawley or otherwise.
A hawley retainer is very common across multiple age groups. In fact, most people – children and adults – need to wear them for a period after their braces are removed. But the good news is you have a beautiful smile waiting for you! Obtaining and maintaining a straight, functional and desirable grin of teeth will build confidence and allow for a lifetime of healthy dental visits.