How does a wire dental retainer work?

Dustin S. Burleson, DDS
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Wire dental retainers prevent future shifting and crowding of your teeth by attaching to the inside surface (tongue surface or lingual side) of your teeth. The small wire retainer is attached to the canine teeth or to each of the front six teeth by a tooth-colored filling material. The procedure is reversible and does not require local anesthesia. No tooth structure is removed in the process.

Because the teeth are held in alignment by the wire retainer, future shifting is nearly impossible with a fixed wire dental retainer. Your dentist and dental hygienist will want to monitor the wire dental retainer frequently (at least every 6 months) during your dental exams and cleanings, in order to prevent gum tissue irritation and tartar buildup on the retainer. Flossing and brushing are critical to the success of the wire dental retainer. 
A wire dental retainer works by stabilizing your teeth so they don’t shift position. A wire retainer is made from a piece of wire that is glued (bonded) to the back of your teeth after braces are removed. The retainer is used in the “retention” phase of treatment, much like a retaining wall holds back the earth behind it. Teeth are forced to move to the new, correct alignment during the “active” phase of treatment (braces), and may shift back to the prior, incorrect alignment without a retainer to keep them in place.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.