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Do Retainers Close Gaps?

By February 2, 2023 August 12th, 2023 No Comments
closeup of a person's mouth with retainers

It is a fact that many people are born with gaps between teeth. You may have a gap between your front teeth and space between your other teeth. Factors causing a tooth gap vary from person to person. The causes may be genetic, overusing a retainer, wearing improper retainers, and many more.

As time goes by, you may notice the shifting in your teeth, which signifies that you should seek orthodontic treatment. However, you might have a pressing question: Do retainers close gaps? This article will shed light on all you need to know about this topic before visiting your dentist.

Do Retainers Close Gaps? Reasons for Teeth Gaps

The following reasons may cause a tooth gap:

  • Un-matching tooth size and jawbone may cause your teeth to have space in between them.
  • Attempt to close other gaps- When your teeth try to close a gap from undersized or missing teeth, it may create new gaps.
  • Poor oral habits like sucking your thumb may push your two front teeth forward and, in turn, create a gap.
  • Improper swallowing reflex- When swallowing, your tongue presses the roof to your mouth. However, you might push your teeth, causing them to move.
  • In severe cases, gum disease may cause a gap in your teeth. Once your jaw bone weakens, your teeth may move with the slightest pressure.

How Do Retainers Work?

There are two types of retainers: fixed and permanent retainers. To know which one is right for you, consult with your orthodontist. You may receive one type or both, depending on your condition.

After receiving your braces treatment, it might take a few months before permanent teeth position. In this period, your teeth try to relapse (shifting back to the previous position). Here is where you will need retainers. When you use them correctly, your teeth maintain their current position. Reliable dental products are still a must.

a young woman holding the retainer in her hand

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers are mainly of two types: plastic retainers and Hawley retainers. Plastic retainers hold your teeth in a fixed position. If you notice your teeth moving, using them throughout the day may shift your teeth back to your desired position. In case you lose them, you can easily replace your retainers.

Hawley retainers contain a metal wire. They are customizable according to your preference, especially color-wise. Depending on how you want them, you tighten them, and in case of damage, they are repairable.

Replacing the Hawley brace is quite expensive. Unlike plastic retainers, they do not prevent your teeth’ surfaces from grinding on each other, and they might be pretty uncomfortable.

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Fixed Retainers

With proper care, fixed retainers stay for up to 20 years. They are usually glued at the back of your teeth; hence remain unnoticeable while helping to keep your teeth straight. However, they need as much care as removable retainers. You should avoid chewing hard things when you have fixed retainers. Cleaning them is also challenging but flossing and brushing them will do.

Essix Retainers

Essix retainers are slime retainers suitable for your teeth. Most orthodontics recommend Essix retainers in the final stage of dental treatment. Others may recommend them as a replacement for braces.

Essix retainers put constant pressure on your teeth, guiding them to maintain a specific position. The upper set should align with the lower set. The pressure makes your teeth feel firm in your mouth. This pressure causes your teeth to assume a particular position. Essix retainers work to correct minor dental misalignment during treatment.

3 various types of retainers

How to Use Retainers

The main requirement with retainers is having them on as your orthodontist requires. It is also advisable you clean your retainer regularly. Furthermore, ensure that your removable retainer is kept in their case whenever they are not in your mouth. You should also clean your retainers, often using a solution best advised by your orthodontist

For fixed retainers, caring for them is the same as caring for your teeth. Brush them thoroughly to remove any food remnants before sleeping. Looking after your fixed retainer will save you the cost of replacing retainers and give you straight teeth and a beautiful smile.

How to Clean Retainers

Cleaning your retainer is not as complex as it may seem. The first step is using water to keep it clean and moist. The same way you use toothpaste on your teeth is how you use it on your retainers, brushing and rinsing them thoroughly.

You can also get a retainer cleaner in which you can soak your retainer in and brush it after some time. Alternatively, you can use baking soda to disinfect the retainer.

Aligners VS Retainers

Aligners look much like retainers, but their sole purpose is to straighten teeth. Aligners are custom-made to fit your dental impression and are changed after a certain period.

Unlike a retainer, clear aligners work with treatment stages. You wear retainers for 2 to 4 weeks before revisiting your orthodontist for improved aligners, depending on your teeth position.

Braces treatment uses brackets to attach to your teeth. On the other hand, aligners are removable and move your teeth 0.2mm in each stage. 

Aligners change the shape of your dental arch. Also, they are more comfortable compared to wearing braces. Additionally, they are a good option if you are looking for non-metal solutions for straightening your teeth and closing teeth gaps. There are limitations for people with badly rotated teeth and major bite problems.

How Should Retainers Fit?

Retainers should fit perfectly on your teeth. Any discomfort or difficulty when fitting your retainer needs urgent orthodontic care.

What If Gaps Persist After Treatment?

The primary purpose of wearing braces is to get straighter teeth. Nonetheless, they can be an option for closing teeth gaps. In several cases, you may misalign your teeth due to lack of jaw space; this is very common in orthodontic results. It is advisable to remove one or more teeth for alignment. Getting braces as one of the treatment options usually solves this problem.

Some teeth gaps do not close after having your braces removed. In this case, getting a retainer may help in closing the teeth gap. If they do not work, consult with your orthodontist. In rare conditions, closing gaps may not be as successful, and correcting them may result in other gaps.

the dentist holding a teeth model

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Alternative Solutions to Closing Tooth Gaps


Veneers are porcelain pieces calibrated to match the color and shape of your teeth. They are bonded on your front teeth like a mask and cover any defects on your teeth. After bonding, veneers become stiff and strong. Porcelain veneers are a cosmetic dental solution to fixing tooth gaps in front teeth. They are a more straightforward approach to sorting the issue and can last for some years.

If done excellently, veneers stay for a long while, but it is irreversible once you decide to use them. For the veneers to attach, the surface of the enamel needs scrapping. The veneer acts as protection because your teeth cannot function without the enamel, making them sensitive and painful.

Veneers are a good solution to solving crooked teeth. However, a point to note is that orthodontic treatment (braces and retainers) is required for difficult situations.

Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is also a cosmetic dentistry approach to fixing your tooth gap, standing as the most economical method. The procedure is mainly used for fixing a chipped part of your tooth. Tooth-colored resin is applied to your tooth in perfect shape.

The resin is hardened using UV light. Unlike veneers, dental bonding does not require enamel removal; hence it is reversible. However, it is also not a permanent solution and needs maintenance as the resin wears out gradually because of eating and brushing your teeth.

a woman visiting the dentist

Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment

Improves Your Confidence

Crooked teeth can cause you a lot of insecurities. Rectifying the problem through orthodontic treatment boosts your confidence, knowing that soon your smile will be as good as you want.

Helps in Speaking

Gaps between teeth may cause difficulty in speaking. While speaking difficulty is not linked to your teeth, mispronouncing some letters like ‘T’ and ‘S’ may signify that you need to visit the orthodontist.

Reduces Teeth Grinding

Unaligned jaws cause teeth to frequently grind against each other and may cause headaches without you knowing the reason. Through the use of braces, retainers, and aligners, your jaw shifts back into its required position.

Rectifies Poor Oral Habits

Thumb sucking is a common habit amongst your children between 0 to 5 years. Children past five years sucking their thumb could cause their teeth to develop gaps. Once you start noticing small gaps, seek professional advice and treatment from a qualified healthcare provider for dental health tips on fixing gaps.

a smiling person wearing retainers


Retainers are one of the preferred choices when it comes to orthodontic treatment. To maintain your tooth positions after you wear braces, you need retainers. For a while, they might be uncomfortable, but with time you can get used to them. Using retainers helps to close gaps in your teeth.

Ready for a confident, healthy smile?

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