After someone wears braces or another orthodontic device to realign their teeth, they need to keep their teeth in their new positions. Patients wear an orthodontic retainer to help maintain or “retain” the teeth in their new positions and prevent them from shifting.
The typical retainer is a plastic device with a metal barrier that slips over the teeth in the upper jaw.
Making a retainer involves a process requiring a series of steps.
Rather than having patients bite into a goopy mix to create a model of their teeth, the current process begins by scanning the teeth to capture their position and shape electronically. The electronic model may require some editing, but once the orthodontist finalizes the model, the process moves on to creating a physical mold.
The physical mold or model is 3D printed with resin and then cleaned and inspected. Liquid resin is applied to block out undercuts and is cured with light to finalize the mold.
Then, the retainer is formed by placing a plastic sheet over the mold and treating it with heat and pressure so the plastic conforms to the mold. The plastic is then removed from the model, trimmed, and polished to fit comfortably. The final steps involve cleaning and sterilizing the retainer and preparing it for delivery to the patient.