Invisible aligner retaining progress

Clear aligners have well and truly broken the metal brace monopoly on all things orthodontic.  Not just by offering a better way of moving teeth but by offering a whole new method of operating alongside the vast majority of other dental treatments which can occur in everyday clinics. It is important to remember the underlying aim of orthodontics is to move teeth and clear aligners do this with more ease than other options.

Orthodontic treatment

Orthodontic treatment revolves around the physiology of teeth which may seem static and locked in place. But they are surprisingly mobile; a tooth’s root is flexible. It is anchored into place by a set of tendons; these tendons and roots can move with consistent pressure. So whether it be a brace or a clear aligner like Invisalign in Ipswich, there is a concern that as soon as the treatment is over, the teeth could regress back into their original positions. This is caused by the tendons being under tension in their new positions.

A common way to avoid this is by wearing a retainer. They are not an orthodontic tool as such because they do not move teeth. They only keep them in their current positions. Treatment usually starts off full time, ranging from 4 anywhere up to 6 months and then the retainers are usually only used at night.

Keeping your progress

Types of retainer

Essix Retainers – These are commonly available. They are similar to clear aligners, sharing a thin profile made of transparent plastic. But they are significantly more durable. With appropriate care and maintenance, they can last 3 to 5 years, although hopefully your time wearing them will not be that long!

Vivara Retainer – These are an in-house version of the classic Essex retainer. Produced with 3D printing technology and based on the digital scans used for the aligner treatment, they are guaranteed to fit well when included as part of a treatment package. They are often the cheapest and most convenient retainer option.

The Hawley-  Is the quintessential retainer and does come with a very negative perception. It has an acrylic main body with metal bars that are removable but have become more commonly used as a nighttime retainer.


Permanent retainers – Permanent retainers are very similar to braces without the option to adjust them. They are permanently fixed to the front of the teeth. For users of clear aligner uses, this is a significant problem as their entire orthodontic treatment was performed discreetly. So the use of such an obvious retainer is counterproductive.

They are best used with younger patients or those with low self-control who are unlikely to wear their retainers appropriately. Or for those who will require the support often enough but justify the use of a permanent solution.

What if retainers don’t work?

So, however well the treatment has gone, there will be the present danger of the tension within the gums returning the teeth to the original position. There are surgical options where the tendons are severed from the root of the teeth. This option is usually used as a secondary treatment due to its invasiveness.

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