Just had your braces removed after many months of discomfort and agony?
Congrats! However, you won’t be happy for long if, — after years of metal mouth, your teeth move back to their original, not so awesome position. Additionally, you probably don’t want your hard earned money spent on orthodontic treatment going down the drain.
So how can you ensure that you keep your beautiful smile and perfectly aligned teeth years after getting your braces removed? The answer is simple — you have to wear a retainer. Immediately after getting the braces removed, you have to wear it all the time for a couple of months so as to prevent any lapse in the treatment. After the first couple of months pass, you should wear your retainer every night all the time. Yes! ALL the time!
What is a Retainer and Who Needs One?
An appliance that is worn after the braces or other orthodontic appliances come off. The purpose of this appliance is to keep the teeth in their intended position and prevent them from slipping back to their previous position.
Any individual who has recently undergone orthodontic treatment to get their teeth straightened needs to wear a retainer.
Why is a Retainer Needed after Orthodontic Treatment?
Our teeth are attached to our gums and surrounding structures through various fibers and ligaments that keep them tightly anchored in their respective places. However, during orthodontic treatment, these fibrous linkages become loose due to the forces generated by the braces or orthodontic appliances. Once treatment is completed, the teeth can quickly snap back to their original position unless they are stopped from doing so by wearing a retainer.
For kids and teenagers, alignment of the teeth can be relatively easier than for adults because there is slightly less chance of relapse. Once shifted, the teeth of younger people are more likely to stay in their new place after the fibrous attachments and bone snap around the teeth in their new position.
Making sure to consistently wear a retainer is more important for any adult who has undergone orthodontic treatment because the adult jaw bone and fibrous attachments of the teeth are much stronger than those of kids and teenagers. Hence, there are greater chances of relapse of misalignment.
What are the Types of Retainers?
There are generally two types of retainers:
Fixed Retainers — these retainers are consist of a wire that is bonded to the lingual (tongue side) surface of the teeth and can only be removed by a dentist. These retainers are used in cases where the dentist suspects that the patient may lose or not wear a removable retainer.
Removable Retainers — these retainers can be removed at the will of the patient and are worn in cases where the dentist or orthodontist is confident that the patient will wear the retainer for the prescribed duration. A removable orthodontic appliance that was worn during the final stages of the treatment can also serve as a removable retainer. Similarly, Invisalign clear aligners can also function as retainers.
How Long Do You Need To Wear A Retainer?
Removable Retainers —
It is recommended that you wear your retainer all the time for couple months. After that, switch to wearing it at night, every night, if you want to keep your teeth straight for the rest of your life. Immediately and several months after orthodontic treatment, the bone around the shifted teeth will still be soft, so you absolutely must wear your retainers at all times to ensure the teeth do not shift into the softer bone mass.
After the bone hardens around the teeth, you might not need to wear your retainers at all times, because the risk for shifting is minimized. However, as we get older our teeth tend to naturally shift anyway. You want to make sure you protect your teeth from shifting to retain the smile you worked hard to get with orthodontic treatment.
Fixed / Permanent Retainers —
If you had braces done as a kid, it is recommended to keep the permanent retainer for at least 10 years.
- For adults— It is recommended for a permanent retainer to stay in place forever if the patient had orthodontics done at an adult stage due to the fact that possibilities of shifting are greater due to the adult onset periodontal conditions such as grinding and other bad habits.
- For kids & teens — If you had braces done when you were a kid, it is recommended to have a permanent retainer for at least 10 years but if it is not causing any hygiene problems after 10 years, you can keep it as long as you’re willing to tolerate it.
Caring for Your Retainers
For Fixed Retainers — If you are wearing a fixed retainer, the only thing that you need to take care of is making sure that you floss between the wire which is attached to your teeth so that they remain protected from teeth cavities and gum infections.
For Removable Retainers — Wash them with lukewarm water after eating or drinking anything. You can also use toothpaste and your toothbrush to clean them.
In the case that you’re not confident about your smile, and are looking for inspiration, check out some of our before and after photos. Today’s technology has allowed us to get incredible results and power beautiful smiles for our patients.