This article was medically reviewed by Cristian Macau, DDS. Dr. Macau is an oral surgeon, periodontist, and aesthetician at Favero Dental Clinic in London. He received his DDS from Carol Davila University of Medicine in 2015.
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A retainer is a custom-made appliance meant to "retain" or hold the position of your teeth after removing braces. Putting it into your mouth properly will make the adjustments from your braces to stay, and keep your teeth in great shape. There are two main types of retainers: the Hawley retainer, and the Essix, or clear, retainer. You can wear each design on either the top or bottom row of your teeth. There is a third type, a bonded, or fixed, retainer, but that is put in and removed only by your dentist, so no need to worry about that one.
Method 1Method 1 of 2:Putting on a Hawley Retainer Download Article
- 1Determine if you have a Hawley retainer. This is made of plastic and wires. The plastic piece is shaped to the inside of your mouth. The wires should fit around the front row of your teeth (usually the front six), with more wires in the back to hold it firmly in place over your back teeth.XTrustworthy SourcePubMed CentralJournal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of HealthGo to source
- 2Hold the retainer properly. You will need to know whether the retainer is for your top or bottom row of teeth. The plastic arch in the center should be pointing up or down toward the row of teeth it will hold in place. Make sure the metal strip is pointed away from your mouth.Advertisement
- 3Place the retainer in your mouth. Make sure it is close to the right row of teeth. Don't hold it there for a long time — this is a quick step to make sure you push it on all at once.
- Don't use too much force as you may hurt your gums if you didn't place it correctly. Check the position in a mirror while opening wide your mouth.
- 4Push the retainer onto your teeth. Do this quickly after placing it in your mouth. Make sure the plastic arch fits perfectly into the roof or base of your mouth, that the wire in the front fits perfectly around your front teeth, and that the wires in the back fit around your back teeth. If your retainer does not fit properly, call your dentist or orthodontist, as it probably needs an adjustment. This could be either the wires around your teeth, or the plastic in your mouth.XResearch source
- 5Anchor the retainer firmly to your back teeth. Use your fingers to push it into place if need be. Do not bite the retainer into place, as that may damage it. You should hear a click when it fits into place. If your retainer is falling out, or not staying in place, you may not have anchored it properly, or you may need to see your dentist or orthodontist to adjust the retainer.XResearch source
Method 2Method 2 of 2:Putting on an Essix Retainer Download Article
- 1Determine if you have an Essix retainer. This retainer is a clear plastic mold of your teeth, with no additional pieces or wires. It should cover the entire row of teeth (top or bottom). Because they are made only of thin plastic, Essix retainers may warp or bend, which makes them not fit properly. If your retainer used to fit, but no longer does, it may need to be fixed or replaced by your dentist.XResearch source
- 2Hold the retainer properly. You will need to know whether your retainer is for your top or bottom row of teeth. Make sure the arch points forward, and that the opening can be placed on the correct teeth.
- 3Place the retainer in your mouth. Make sure it is close to the correct row of teeth. Don't hold it there for a long time — this is a quick step to make sure you push it on all at once.
- 4Push the retainer onto your teeth. Do this quickly after placing it in your mouth. The plastic should fit snugly over your whole row of teeth, and should not move. Make sure your retainer fits over all of your teeth, including in the back to hold it in place. If your retainer is falling out, or not staying in place, you may not have anchored it properly.XResearch source
- Remember not to eat with the retainer placed, as you may break it or hurt your jaw.
Expert Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article?Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow
- QuestionWhy does the dentist have to put a wire in your mouth?Cristian Macau, DDSDr. Macau is an oral surgeon, periodontist, and aesthetician at Favero Dental Clinic in London. He received his DDS from Carol Davila University of Medicine in 2015.
Doctor of Dental SurgeryDoctor of Dental SurgeryExpert Answer
- QuestionWould I get a retainer free if I got my braces free (in the UK)?Cristian Macau, DDSDr. Macau is an oral surgeon, periodontist, and aesthetician at Favero Dental Clinic in London. He received his DDS from Carol Davila University of Medicine in 2015.
Doctor of Dental SurgeryDoctor of Dental SurgeryExpert Answer
- These are the only two types of retainers you can put on yourself. A fixed retainer should not come out, and if it does, go see your dentist as soon as possible so they can put it back in.
- Remember to wear your retainer as often as instructed by your dentist. It will not be able to work properly otherwise, and you will likely need to wear it for an even longer time.
- You will probably produce more saliva due to having an object in your mouth. That is normal, and should go away in a few days. XResearch source
- It will probably be difficult to talk for the first few days as you get used to having the retainer in your mouth. Ways to practice speaking, such as reading aloud, can help you adjust more quickly.
- Your retainer is specifically designed for your teeth. If it does not fit properly, causes you pain, or is cutting your mouth, bring it to your dentist so they can fix it.
About This Article
To put on a Hawley retainer made of plastic and wire, hold it between your fingers and orient it the right way with the metal strip pointing away from your mouth. Next, position the retainer in your mouth and push it onto the correct row of teeth. Then, anchor the retainer firmly to your back teeth by pushing with your fingers until you hear it click into place. If the retainer won't stay in place, you may need to anchor it again or see your orthodontist to get the retainer adjusted. For tips on putting on an Essix retainer made of clear, wireless plastic, read on!