Hawley Retainer: Proven to Maintain Your Straight Smile

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.

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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Common Oral Care Occurrences for TEENS

As teens continue to grow, they’re faced with certain dental issues, such as getting braces or having their wisdom teeth removed. Many of these procedures are a normal part of life, while others are proactive steps dentists take to help ensure a lifetime of oral health.

Here are some good topics to discuss with your teen:

  • Bad breath causes – bad breath, or halitosis, usually comes from bacteria that form on the tongue. In many cases, a simple change in your teen’s personal oral hygiene habits can freshen him up, starting with good oral hygiene, brush the tongue and keep regular visits to your dentist.

  • Whitening options – whitening those pearly whites can be done with whitening toothpastes, mouth rinses and toothbrushes. The dentist also offers whitening treatment options that are done in the dental office and at home.

  • Tobacco use – tobacco products contain toxins that can cause various types of cancer, gum disease, bad breath, tooth discoloration and a diminished sense of smell. It’s easier to kick a smoking habit earlier rather than later.

  • Oral piercings – oral piercings can have adverse affects on the health of your tongue, lips, cheeks and uvula. Oral problems associated with swallowed/aspirated jewelry, speech impairment, fractured teeth and gingival recession can occur.