As anyone who has looked into orthodontic treatment will know, straightening teeth with braces is usually followed by wearing an after-braces retainer.
Whether you opt for traditional braces with brackets and wires, or retainer braces in the form of clear aligner trays, you’ll still need to wear a retainer after the treatment plan is complete to maintain the new positions of your teeth.
Re-aligning teeth can take anywhere from a few months to two years or more, so why would you want to waste all the time, money, and effort you’ve put into your new smile by letting your teeth shift back to their old positions?
If you’re worried about what wearing a retainer after braces entails, here’s what you need to know about how retainers work and why they’re essential.
Before regularly wearing after-brace retainers became standard practice, people who didn’t use them properly often found that their teeth slowly moved back to their original positions over time until they were misaligned again.
Teeth are especially vulnerable to movement right after having braces removed, as the fibrous ligaments holding them in place will be looser and take a little while to tighten. They are also more likely to shift back in adult patients, as their ligaments will be stronger.
This is why your orthodontist will typically expect you to wear a retainer day and night for a few weeks or months, then advise you on whether you can only wear the retainer at night from then on – this will depend on how prone your teeth are to movement.
Retainers are typically more comfortable than braces – as patients who have opted for retainer-style Invisalign will tell you – but you do have to wear them as much as possible to minimise the risk of your teeth moving again.
Think of retainers as a kind of insurance policy, protecting you against having to repeat the hard work and expense of braces treatment to get your straight smile back.
There are two primary types of retainers that patients can wear after their braces come off – fixed or removable. Your orthodontist can recommend the most suitable option at the end of your scheduled treatment.
A permanent retainer is a thin wire that’s fixed to the back of the teeth with dental cement (similar to braces, but less obtrusive). This means it cannot be removed and holds your teeth in position constantly – but as it’s behind the teeth, it isn’t visible.
A removeable retainer is a custom-moulded tray made from flexible plastic, usually clear in colour, which fits exactly over your teeth to stop them from moving out of place. These are easy to put in before you go to sleep at night and take out in the morning.
However, if you have to wear your retainer during the day, too, then you’ll need to be careful about taking it out to eat and drink and brushing your teeth before putting it back in – much like Invisalign patients throughout their treatment plan.
If you want your retainer to last for a long time, so you don’t have to replace it, then you must be diligent about looking after it and maintaining good oral hygiene.
It can be difficult at first to get used to cleaning a fixed retainer, and it’s recommended to use interdental brushes, but your orthodontist can help you with techniques for brushing and flossing between the back of your teeth and the wire.
Caring for a removeable retainer can be a bit more tedious for some people, as you can’t just clean it at the same time as brushing your teeth. However, as long as you keep it safe in a retainer case whenever you aren’t wearing it, there’s less risk of damage or bacteria building up that would take longer to deal with.
You just have to remember not to eat or drink anything besides plain water while your retainer is in, so it doesn’t accumulate food debris or stains, and to brush your teeth and rinse the retainer thoroughly before putting it back in.
Our teeth may naturally shift a little as we age, but people who have gone to the expense and effort of straightening their teeth with orthodontic treatment should want to avoid this by wearing an orthodontist-prescribed retainer.
You may wonder whether you have to wear a retainer at least some of the time for the rest of your life, or if you can eventually stop wearing your retainer at some point.
This depends on your personal treatment, as some patients can wear a retainer a few nights a week and maintain their straight teeth just fine, while other patients will feel their teeth starting to shift if they miss even one night.
If you forget to wear your retainer as advised by your orthodontist, then find that it feels tight when you put it back in, this is a sign that your teeth may be moving.
So, if your retainer stops fitting correctly, or if you lose or damage it, it’s essential to contact your orthodontist right away to get a replacement as quickly as possible.
As providers of quality orthodontics in Warrington, we advise patients on a case-by-case basis when it comes to their retainer plan. Just as braces have to be tailored to the individual’s unique teeth and jaw alignment, so must after-braces retainers.
If you need more information about dental retainers, or you’re just starting your teeth straightening journey and would like to book a consultation at Dental Solutions, you can call 01925 756 565 or email [email protected] for assistance.