12 reasons I love the Essix Appliance (Retainer)

Retainers are an essential component of orthodontic treatment. These orthodontic appliances are utilized to hold and maintain the teeth in their new corrected positions following the removal of braces. They help prevent the teeth from returning to their pre-treatment positions under the influence of forces from gums, bone and the muscles. Like other orthodontic devices, retainers come in several different types and models; and one of these options that you can choose from is Essix Retainers.

A Complete Guide To Essix Retainers

What Is An Essix Retainer?

Essix is a brand of vacuum-formed retainers. Retainers can be fixed or removable and are made from plastic or wires. Essix retainers are a style of removable retainers that are made using clear molded plastic. They consist of two pieces, one to fit over the upper teeth and one for the bottom row of teeth. These clear retainers actually look very similar to Invisalign trays, and fully cover over the teeth. In fact, some refer to them as “invisible” retainers. And because the thin, clear plastic material fits over the entire arch of the teeth, these orthodontic appliances are also sometimes referred to as overlay retainers.

How Essix Retainers Are Made

Essix retainers are typically custom-produced from a mold (impression of your teeth). These vacuum-formed orthodontic appliances are quite simple to make. Actually, most orthodontists fabricate them right in their office.

The placement process starts with a consultation in which the orthodontist determines whether or not the patient is a candidate for these types of retainers. Then, impressions of patient’s teeth will be taken and used to construct a cast – which is used in the retainer construction process.

The Essix retainer is vacuum thermoformed over this cast using a thin sheet of thermoformable plastic material (usually polyvinylchloride or polypropylene that is 0.30 inch thick) and a pressure or vacuum thermoforming machine. To fabricate the retainer, the thin sheet of thermoformable plastic is heated and then sucked down over the cast using the vacuum thermoforming machine. This creates a customized shape for the Essix retainer.

After the retainer is heat-formed, excess plastic material is trimmed away and the finished orthodontic appliance is placed to over the patient’s teeth.

How Does The Essix Retainer Work?

Essix retainers function similarly to other types of retainers (fixed, Hawley, etc.). They are used as the last phase of orthodontic treatment, where they are installed to hold teeth in place after the braces have been taken off. They help maintain the position of newly straightened teeth and smile. In some cases, these appliances may be used to straighten or correct some minor misalignment problems. When used for teeth straightening purposes, a protrusion/divot is formed in the retainer to induce force for tooth movement and a window is cut on the opposite side of each tooth that needs to be re-positioned.

The Essix retainer may cover all of the patient’s teeth on the arch or just some groups of them. In most cases, they are installed to serve the two functions – maintain the correct position following active orthodontic movement and provide minor corrections to small misalignment problems.

What Are The Advantages Of Essix Retainers?

Essix retainers are designed to provide an aesthetically pleasing option for people who don’t want to wear retainers with a visible wire. Because these vacuum formed retainers are made from a thin sheet of clear plastic, they are less noticeable than regular wire retainers. In fact, their design makes it easy to look as if you are not wearing any dental devices. Patients who wear this style of retainers are able to hold their teeth in the correct position and maintain their smiles discreetly.

These orthodontic appliances are also more comfortable than traditional retainers, with no metal or wires required in order to wear them. What’s more, they are very convenient. With these retainers, you don’t have to worry about the irritation that wires can cause to gums and teeth. These retainers are smooth and comfortable to wear, plus they are removable. That means you are able to continue doing all the things you normally would, from blushing to eating. This type of retainer interferes with maintaining oral hygiene the least.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Essix Retainers?

The main disadvantage of Essix orthodontic retainer is attributed to its “weak” nature. Regular retainers that use wires tend to be sturdier than this model of retainer. The nature of Essix’s plastic material is one where it will wear or distort when the wearer grinds his or her teeth, and could also become damaged if exposed to heat.

Aside from being “weaker” than traditional wired retainers, Essix retainers are typically non-adjustable. Because of this, it may not be possible to effectively make further significant refinements or corrections to the alignment results from braces. They allow for only very minor corrections to small misalignment problems.

For how long do I need to wear my Essix retainer?

It takes time for bone, gums and muscles to adapt to the new correct teeth positions and therefore it’s necessary to wear retainers until your bite fully stabilizes. The risk of relapse, where the teeth shift back to their original uncorrected position, is usually very high during the first month after braces are taken off; and therefore full-time wear immediately after treatment is recommended. Depending on your situation, this risk of relapse can take up to 1 year or more to disappear. So there’s no specific time frame for wearing retainers. It all depends on your individual situation.

Your dentist will give you advice instructions on how to wear, including advice on the length of time to wear these appliances. You simply have to take your orthodontist’s advice on this one. Depending on your case, you may need to wear your Essix retainer for an extended period of time, around-the-clock or only at certain times such as at night or a few times a week. Naturally, the retention period will be longer if you had a major orthodontic problem such as large gaps between teeth.

How Much Do Essix Retainers Cost?

The placement procedure of An Essix retainer can cost anywhere from $100 – $285. But the exact cost will depend on a number of factors, including the complexity of tooth misalignment issues, the number of teeth that need to be retained, the length of time that treatment lasts, your location, the specific dental clinic and so on. Most orthodontist will typically include this cost in their quotation for orthodontic treatment fee.

How to take care of your Essix retainer

Caring for your Essix retainer is essential for ensuring that it lasts the entire length of your treatment. This is not hard and it involves only a few simple steps.

  • Make sure you wash your Essix retainer with a specialized dental cleaning solution once every 2-3 months
  • Always rinse your appliance in cold water before wearing it and immediately after taking it out
  • Never brush the clear retainers with a toothbrush and toothpaste, as they can cause damage to its surface
  • Use a soft brush and lukewarm water to clean your retainer after each meal
  • Never put your retainer in hot water, as this may shrink it
  • Store your retainer in the provided plastic case whenever you are not wearing them
  • If you happen to detect a problem, such as breakage, hole, crack or tear, have the retainer inspected by your dentist.

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