When you think about orthodontic treatment, you likely imagine a scenario involving wires, brackets, years of adjustments, dental rubber bands, and possibly even headgear. However, many patients undergo orthodontic treatment and maintenance with comfortable and practically invisible appliances.
These discreet orthodontic appliances are professionally known as Essix retainers. In this blog, we discuss what Essix retainers are and how they may help you transform your smile and keep your teeth aligned beautifully for a lifetime.
What Are Essix Retainers?
Any clear retainer used for orthodontic treatment can be classified as an Essix retainer. You may also hear them called invisible or overlay retainers.
Essix retainers were popularized by the brand Invisalign®, but these retainers have actually been in use since the 1970s. Essix retainers offer an alternative to other types of retainers, specifically removable wire retainers and permanent bonded retainers.
Like wire retainers, Essix retainers snap onto and off of the teeth and can be worn the majority of the time for active orthodontic treatment or just overnight to maintain the alignment of the teeth.
Wire retainers consist of metal, colored plastic, and sometimes dental tooth prosthetics. Essix retainers are made entirely of clear plastic, which is inherently smoother and therefore less irritating to oral soft tissues than wire retainers.
Patients may need to see an orthodontist or a specifically certified dentist to undergo orthodontic treatment using Essix retainers. However, most general dentists have the ability to create Essix retainers onsite for maintenance purposes.
The manufacturing process involves taking a mold of the patient's teeth, then vacuum fitting a thin layer of clear dental plastic over the mold. This method ensures that the resulting retainer fits the patient's teeth exactly. Your dentist may trim or file the retainer slightly to ensure a seamless, comfortable fit in your mouth.
When Should You Choose an Essix Retainer?
When a patient finishes orthodontic treatment, he or she may decide to opt for an Essix retainer as their maintenance device. However, alignment services with Essix retainer systems like Invisalign® may not be available to all patients.
Orthodontic treatment via Essix retainers can only be used for minor smile adjustments. During this process, the orthodontist creates multiple retainers with slightly different shapes that gradually guide the teeth into their final positions. If the patient has a significant bite issues, extensive tooth crowding, or certain other oral misalignments, he or she may need braces instead.
You may choose an Essix system over another retainer or type of orthodontic appliance for a number of reasons. Patients may prefer Essix retainers due to the appliances':
- Discreet, virtually invisible appearance
- Comfortable fitting, wear, and removal compared to bonded braces
- Easy removability, which does not restrict diet, use of mouthguards, or practice of wind instruments
- Reduced risk of tooth demineralization, inhibited oral hygiene, and other dental issues associated with conventional orthodontic appliances
- Reduced risk of soft tissue irritation or injury compared to metal braces
- Shorter orthodontic treatment time compared to most conventional methods
When you have an orthodontic consultation, ask your orthodontist whether or not you are a good candidate for an Essix retainer system. Your orthodontist will provide you with a full explanation of all orthodontic appliance options available to you.
Whether you are considering orthodontic treatment or you recently had your braces taken off, talk to your dentist about how Essix retainer may address your dental needs. Your dentist can help you decide if you're a good candidate to discreetly beautify or maintain the uniformity of your smile.
For both general and specialized dental services, including Essix retainer fittings, trust our experienced staff at the practice of Dr. Devins.