I have a permanent metal retainer glued to the back of my top teeth. I have a second one glued to the back of my bottom teeth. They were put on immediately after my braces were taken off. Here's an example of what they look like:

Metal Retainer

It is too difficult to floss under the metal retainers, so unfortunately I don't. Even the dental hygienist has trouble.

I wear my clear nighttime retainers every night and always have (for several years now). These retainers fit over all of my teeth. I'm talking about these:

Clear Retainer

Assuming I maintain my habit of wearing the clear retainers every night, can I get my permanent metal retainers out? That is, if they are removed, will my teeth shift back to their pre-braces configuration?

In other words, is wearing clear nighttime retainers for 8 hours a day adequate to prevent teeth shift?

My reason for wanting my permanent metal retainers out is to be able to floss those teeth and improve my teeth and gum hygiene. Because, as it stands right now, I am only flossing about 50% of my teeth.

My understanding is that orthodontists insist on the permanent metal retainers because nearly everyone stops wearing the clear nighttime retainers eventually. I am in the minority—people who make a concerted effort to wear the nighttime retainer until the day we die. But for those in this elite subset, is the metal retainer necessary?

  • That's a great question! If it were me, I would far rather have clean, healthy teeth than straight ones, if that's the trade-off. Feb 18, 2016 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


The quick answer is no, if you want to avoid crowding of the bottom teeth in the futur.

The reason is that the mandible (jaw) is constantly being remodelled, as shown on the picture bellow. Schematic representation of the remodeling of the jaw

Notice how near the front teeth, who are in a kind of half-circle, the reformation is inward. The diameter of the arch (half-circle) is reduced throughout life, and therefore the teeth are forced to get crowded to fit in the reduced space. This can even happen to older people who did not get an orthodontic treatment! The top retainer is there to prevent the top teeth from moving back into their original location. Therefore the fact that you wear the top retainer makes absolutely no difference for the bottom teeth.

The second aspect of the question is concerning the health of the gums and periodontal tissues. If you are unable to perform dental hygiene routinely, you should speak to your Orthodontist, and make it known that it is a problem for you.

My orthodontist uses a different design for the bottom lingual wire which only bonds to the canines (see picture bellow), and therefore I can more easily pass the floss.

Hygienic Lower fixed retainer

If you are willing to read some more, a more in-deapth analysis of the concepts can be obtained on the 3rd link in my references.


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