Many people who wear retainers often wonder just how permanent they are and how they can be removed if the situation requires it.
However, self-removal should never be attempted, as this could cause damage to your mouth and to the teeth to which the retainer is attached.
There are, however, several reasons why you might want your permanent retainer removed, ranging from a damaged retainer, discomfort in the mouth, a buildup of tartar or calculus (plaque), and of course, the end of your treatment course.
But first, what is a permanent retainer, and what purpose does it serve?
Permanent Retainers: The Facts
Also known as a fixed bonded retainer, permanent retainers generally consist of metal wiring that is attached to the rear side of a person’s teeth in order to encourage straightness, prevent the teeth from moving, and ensure a perfect smile.
These are generally recommended by orthodontists for people who are having their braces removed, as this can be a near invisible method of ensuring the teeth remain straight after removal and that they do not migrate back to their original position.
Permanent retainers usually reside behind 4 to six teeth at the front of the mouth, either on the upper set, lower set or on both. However, the more common position is behind, the lower set of teeth, as these are much less likely to break than on the upper set.
A good, well-made permanent retainer can last in excess of 20 years if properly cared for, and with regular maintenance checks from your dentist, this can be a good way of ensuring your pesky teeth remain straight, and you can avoid the natural migration and change that happens to the teeth as we age.
The main reason why permanent retainers are recommended is that they require less maintenance, do not require as thorough cleaning, and do not need to be taken in and out when the wearer eats or drinks.
Permanent Retainers: Pros & Cons
Of course, with any dental attachment, there are going to be pros and cons that have to be factored into the decision.
The main pro is that they are almost invisible and can only be seen if someone purposely looks behind the set of teeth where they are positioned.
This can be a great alternative, especially for younger people and those in the public eye (such as celebrities) whose careers and lives depend on their ability to look a certain way.
Another pro is that they are incredibly durable. This ultimately saves money in the long run, as you are somewhat protected from the consequences of natural wear and tear, which might damage or ruin temporary retainers.
Thirdly, permanent retainers require far fewer follow-up appointments with your dentist, meaning you both save money and time, and that don’t have to go through the stress of the dentist’s office – something that a lot of people have a phobia of.
The first major con is that, from a practical standpoint, they make it harder to floss and clean your teeth.
Now, depending on how long you are going to be wearing them, this is something you will soon adapt to, and you will find simple ways to get around these minor setbacks.
They can also trap food particles and in some cases, cause cavities and gum disease, due to the fact that they can cause problems when cleaning.
If you are worried about this, then the best way might be to have semi-regular check-ups with your dentist, who will monitor your overall oral health.
They can also be uncomfortable against the tongue and the other soft tissues within the oral cavity.
While this is not a massive disadvantage in the great scheme of things (particularly if the retainer solves a larger tooth problem), it can be unpleasant depending on the extent of the discomfort.
Permanent Retainers: The Removal Process
The best way to have your permanent retainer removed is through your dentist.
This is a relatively simple procedure, but due to the nature of permanent retainers (and their specific function of staying in place), they generally cannot be removed without the proper dental tools.
To remove the retainer, your dentist will need to remove the bonding cement that attaches the device to your teeth. This generally requires a dental drill, which is used to chip away at the cement to loosen the retainer.
The next step involves the detachment of the wires and the brackets, which is much simpler once the cement has been removed. This generally just involves a simple unthreading process and doesn’t require any particular tools.
Finally, your dentist will polish the rear of your teeth, ensuring that any built-up plaque, or indeed leftover cement, is brushed away and you are left with nice, clean teeth.
Things To Remember
There are of course, many things which you need to remember before embarking on this process.
If you have reached the natural end of your treatment, then the cost will usually be much lower and will probably be included in your treatment plan.
However, if you want an unnatural removal before the treatment period has ended, then this can cost anywhere up to $500.
The most important thing is not to attempt to remove the retainer yourself.
The need for specialist tools, and the fact that it is connected to your teeth, means that there is a distinct risk of damage, tooth loosening, and generally something going wrong if you try to do it yourself.
And there we have, everything you need to know about the retainer removal process.
Remember, always seek the advice and expertise of your dentist, and never attempt to perform any such procedure at home or through any unprofessional methods.
Your smile could depend on it!