What Are Permanent Retainers?

Anyone could be wearing permanent retainers—because no one else can tell! BHO spills the tea about the visible benefits of these invisible appliances

Ahh, retainers: the unsung heroes of orthodontic care. Retainers enable orthodontic patients to keep their perfect smiles for life, as long as you don’t throw them out with your lunch tray. 

In general, treatments by both Invisalign and conventional braces take around 6 to 24 months to complete. Once the Invisalign trays are gone and the braces have been removed, orthodontic patients can see just how much their smiles have improved. Free from crowding and bite issues, patients can finally show off their flawless smiles and experience the numerous health benefits associated with straight teeth.

Of course, orthodontic care doesn’t stop after active treatment ends. Once a patient finishes their Invisalign treatment or loses their braces, their teeth naturally try to move back to their original positions. To keep that new smile perfectly in place, it’s essential that orthodontic patients wear retainers following active treatment. 

Here at Beverly Hills Orthodontics, we offer a variety of retainer options to meet the preferences of different patients. In the last few years, patients have been particularly interested in permanent retainers. Because permanent retainers are less obvious than conventional retainers, our patients tend to have a few common questions, including:

  • What are permanent retainers?
  • What are the pros and cons of permanent retainers?
  • How do permanent retainers compare to other retainer options?

If you’re asking yourself the same questions, keep reading to find the answers!

So, What Are Permanent Retainers, Exactly?

Given that this article is titled, “What are Permanent Retainers?” a simple description of permanent retainers seems like a natural place to start our discussion. 

Permanent retainers—aka “bonded retainers'' or “fixed retainers”—don’t have the familiar look of a Hawley or Essix retainer. Instead, permanent retainers look exactly like small wires. Made of solid or braided metal, permanent retainers are cemented to the back of teeth in order to prevent them from shifting positions. 

Compared to other retainer options, permanent retainers last much longer. For example, both Hawley and Essix Retainers need periodic replacements because of natural wear and tear. Over time, traditional retainers warp and change shape. As these retainers widen, they become less effective at keeping teeth in place, putting patients’ teeth at risk of reverting back to their original positions. 

Permanent retainers, on the other hand, do not warp with time. The metal can remain sturdy for decades, providing patients with an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” approach to orthodontic retention.

The Advantages of Permanent Retainers

As you may have already guessed from the description above, one of the biggest advantages of permanent retainers is convenience. 

In addition to outlasting Hawley and Essix retainers, permanent retainers require less care and attention than alternatives. Patients who choose permanent retainers over removable retainers enjoy a variety of benefits:

Lifelong Retention

The end of active treatment is when teeth are at the highest risk of shifting. The ligaments and fibers lying underneath the gums naturally want to pull teeth back to their original positions. To prevent movement, orthodontists recommend that patients wear retainers as much as possible for 3 to 6 months after treatment, and then only at night for the rest of their lives.

Patients with permanent retainers never have to worry about wearing an appliance for a certain amount of time. Once installed, the permanent retainer applies enough constant pressure to keep teeth in place for life.

Impossible To Lose

Removable retainers are incredibly easy to misplace. Although we always recommend that patients keep their retainers in familiar spots—and inside cases—when not in use, we can tell you from first-hand experience how easy it is to lose track of them. 

In contrast, permanent retainers are impossible to lose. The bonding material used to affix permanent retainers is strong enough to last for 20+ years, offering patients worry-free results. 

Discreet Look

Permanent retainers are bonded on the tongue side of teeth. As such, no one ever sees a permanent retainer unless the wearer directs them to take a look. 

If you love the natural aesthetic of your smile, a permanent retainer will let you keep that appearance 24 hours a day.

The Disadvantages of Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are convenient, discreet, and long-lasting. However, they are not entirely free from disadvantages.

One of the biggest drawbacks is that permanent retainers are more difficult to clean than conventional retainers. Cleaning a permanent retainer is comparable to cleaning your teeth when you have braces. You need to brush around the wire to keep teeth clean and floss in between the wire to prevent plaque buildup. This process can be time-consuming, which is why many permanent retainer wearers end up with significant plaque buildup. 

Permanent retainers also require a certain amount of delicacy when eating. For instance, if you bite into hard or crunchy foods without thinking about your permanent retainer, you could break it off just as you would break a wire on braces. That said, the vast majority of patients can still eat as they always have once the retainer is installed.

In short, permanent retainers do require more maintenance than other options, but many patients find this to be a fair trade-off in exchange for daily convenience and great aesthetics.

Now That You Understand Permanent Retainers, You Are Ready To Schedule Your Orthodontic Appointment!

When it comes to convenient retainer options, it’s hard to beat the permanent retainer. Bonded directly behind your teeth, permanent retainers keep teeth in place 24 hours a day. This allows patients to live their lives without worrying about wearing a retainer at night or removing—and keeping track of it—throughout the day. 

If you are about to finish your orthodontic treatment or are looking for a new retainer, Beverly Hills Orthodontics is your home for permanent retainer care. Located in Beverly Hills/Century City, Toluca Lake, Alhambra, and Downtown Los Angeles, BHO has multiple locations to make your life easier. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss your retainer options!