25th October 2023

Why retainers are essential after braces

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.

 

What does wearing a retainer do?

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.

 

What types of retainers are there?

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.

 

How do you look after retainers?

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.

 

How long do you have to wear a retainer?

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.

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2024-01-29
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2023-10-27
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2023-06-30
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2023-05-10
A really Five Star Dental Practice! Upon arrival I was greeted by their most friendly welcoming receptionists. it seems nothing is 'too much trouble' to them. Gavin is similarly very friendly and the surgery is kitted out with the most high-tech modern equipment. On my first visit Gavin examined my teeth and explained my options to me giving me his recommendation for treatment and reasons why. Their Co-ordinator prepared a detailed quote for my treatment and went through it in detail with me, ensuring I understood everything; she had plenty of time for me as a patient. From the outset I had complete confidence in entrusting them with my dental care and the final results are truly amazing. Gavin and Richard could not have been more professional and my treatment was made as painless as possible. Dental Solutions provide a truly outstanding service and I thank them for my new 'long lost' smile and renewed confidence, especially when dining out and talking with people. I can't recommend them too highly.
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2023-05-08
A first class experience from start to finish. Despite being fearful of visiting the dentist, Gavin put me at ease with his gentle unhurried manner. I was surprised at how relaxed I actually felt undergoing treatment for a crown and the removal/replacement of front teeth veneers. Having felt self conscious about my front teeth for a long time, I decided to have my old veneers replaced. The results were amazing and far exceeded my expectations. What Gavin achieved was nothing short of a work of art, boosting my confidence tenfold. The practice itself is very welcoming, the customer service excellent and the staff are all very friendly and kind. I cannot recommend this dental practise highly enough.
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2023-04-28
I recently needed some urgent treatment and after trying a couple of dentists in the area, dental solutions were the only dentist that agreed to see me, genuinely nobody else showed any interest in helping me. The receptionist I spoke to initially was super compassionate and understanding and did all she could to get me in asap. I saw Lauren for all of my appointments, and I’ve now had: a composite filling, root canal and emax crown and just yesterday had a wisdom tooth extracted. I don't know what Lauren does but I have had zero pain or discomfort with any treatments during and after. I'm extremely happy with the results of her work. She definitely knows her stuff and filled me with the utmost confidence whilst in the chair! I literally cant find any fault with any of the experiences I have had so far. They go the extra mile and do it with a smile. What more can you ask for?! Definitely my dentist for the foreseeable future! Thank you Lauren and everyone!
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2023-04-07
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