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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jan 25;(1):CD002283.

Retention procedures for stabilising tooth position after treatment with orthodontic braces.

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St Luke's Hospital, Orthodontic Department, Little Horton Lane, Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK, BD5 0NA.



Retention is the phase of orthodontic treatment that attempts to keep teeth in the corrected positions after treatment with orthodontic (dental) braces. Without a phase of retention there is a tendency for the teeth to return to their initial position (relapse). To prevent relapse almost every patient who has orthodontic treatment will require some type of retention.


To evaluate the effectiveness of different retention strategies used to stabilise tooth position after orthodontic braces.


The Cochrane Oral Health Group's (OHG) Trials Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched. Handsearching of orthodontic journals was undertaken in keeping with the Cochrane OHG search programme. No language restrictions were applied. Authors of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were identified and contacted to identify unpublished trials. Most recent search: May 2005.


RCTs on children and adults, who have had retainers fitted or adjunctive procedures undertaken, following orthodontic treatment with braces to prevent relapse. The outcomes were: how well the teeth were stabilised, survival of retainers, adverse effects on oral health and quality of life.


Screening of eligible studies, assessment of the methodological quality of the trials and data extraction were conducted in duplicate and independently by two review authors. As no two studies compared the same retention strategies (interventions) it was not possible to combine the results of any studies.


Five trials satisfied the inclusion criteria. These trials all compared different interventions: circumferential supracrestal fiberotomy (CSF) combined with full-time removable retainer versus a full-time removable retainer alone; CSF combined with a nights-only removable retainer versus a nights-only removable retainer alone; removable Hawley retainer versus a clear overlay retainer; multistrand wire retainer versus a ribbon-reinforced resin bonded retainer; and three types of fixed retainers versus a removable retainer. There was weak unreliable evidence, based on data from one trial, that there was a statistically significant increase in stability in both the mandibular (lower) (P < 0.001) and maxillary (upper) anterior segments (P < 0.001) when the CSF was used, compared with when it was not used. There was also weak, unreliable evidence that teeth settle quicker with a Hawley retainer than with a clear overlay retainer after 3 months. The quality of the trial reports was generally poor.


There are insufficient research data on which to base our clinical practice on retention at present. There is an urgent need for high quality randomised controlled trials in this crucial area of orthodontic practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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