Congratulations! After months or even years of wearing braces, your teeth are finally aligned, and you have achieved the smile you’ve always desired. However, the journey to a flawless smile doesn’t end with braces removal. To ensure your teeth remain in their new positions and to protect the investment you made in orthodontic treatment, it’s crucial to wear a retainer. In this article, we will explore the importance of wearing a retainer after braces and the benefits it provides in maintaining the beautiful results you worked so hard to achieve. Whether you are a recent braces wearer or contemplating orthodontic treatment, understanding why wearing a retainer is essential will help you preserve your picture-perfect smile for years to come.
What Is a Retainer and Who Needs It?
After braces or other orthodontic appliances are removed, a retainer is worn by patients. It is a custom-made device, typically made of plastic and metal, that fits over the teeth and in the mouth.
Any patient who has undergone orthodontic treatment needs to wear a retainer.
What Are Retainers For?
Retainers are for maintaining the corrected alignment of teeth by preventing them from shifting back to their original positions.
5 Reasons Why Are Retainers Important?
What do retainers do in your orthodontic treatment? Retainers play a crucial role in your orthodontic treatment by providing several benefits:
- They Stabilize Your BiteOnce your braces are removed, the soft tissue and bone around your teeth need time to adapt to the changes made in tooth positioning. They slowly stabilize in their new arrangement, and once that occurs, the likelihood of relapse or having the teeth shift out of their positions is minimal.
- They Maintain Space for Wisdom Teeth and New TeethBraces are most commonly worn by preteens and teenagers, whose bodies are still developing. So, they would use retainers for teeth around the same time when wisdom teeth erupt. When they use the retainer diligently, there will be the necessary space maintained in their jaw to accommodate new teeth like wisdom teeth. Constant use of retainers ensures that the teeth don’t shift or crowd due to lack of space.
- They Prevent Treatment ReversalThe teeth will start moving back to their old position in the months following the removal of braces. A retainer can prevent the reversal. However, depending on your case, you may be required to wear a retainer for a couple of years.
- They Align Your Jaw Bones With GumsWhen your teeth are being aligned to a new position, the gums and bones surrounding the teeth will take longer to follow suit. Retainers help in accelerating alignment and stabilizing your bite.
- They Help Teeth Hold Their PositionIf you use braces to correct the gaps in the teeth, it will take a longer time for the teeth to stabilize. This can hold true even for severely displaced teeth, large overbites, and underbites. It is important to hold the teeth, which need to be moved a considerable distance or repositioned significantly and firmly in their new spaces until the mouth can adapt to these changes. The retainer helps in achieving this.
If you don’t use a retainer after braces your teeth will revert to the way they were before orthodontic treatment. If you ignore the retainer, an orthodontic relapse will occur which might require extensive treatment to fix. The teeth will shift in the years following braces removal, but their extent of shifting will depend on how regularly you wear the retainers.
How Do Retainers Work?
Once you have your braces removed, your orthodontist will make a mold of your teeth and create the retainer based on the new position of your teeth.
Retainers function by applying gentle pressure to the teeth and jaw, helping to maintain the alignment achieved through orthodontic treatment. They keep teeth from shifting back to their original positions and promote stability in the corrected bite. By wearing retainers as instructed by your orthodontist, you can preserve the results of your orthodontic treatment over time.
What Are the Types of Retainers?
Permanent Fixed Lingual Retainers:
These retainers have a wire attached to the back of your teeth. They are ideal for people with rotated, crowded, or spaced teeth. Fixed retainers are permanent and cannot be removed. However, they require careful cleaning to prevent plaque buildup and future dental problems.
Removable Hawley Wire Retainers:
These are popular retainers made of bendable wire and plastic. The wire goes across the front teeth, while the plastic part is custom-made to fit comfortably in your mouth. Hawley retainers can be adjusted by your orthodontist for better results. They come in various styles and colors, are easy to clean, and allow natural teeth contact.
Clear Plastic Retainers (Essix Retainers):
These removable retainers are made of clear plastic, similar to Invisalign aligners. They are nearly invisible and preferred by many. Clear retainers (Essix retainers) are less bulky and have minimal impact on speech. They provide a snug fit over your newly positioned teeth. However, they have a shorter lifespan as the plastic may wear out or crack over time.
Related Post: Removable Vs Permanent Retainers – Pros and Cons
How to Put On Retainers?
- Clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling your retainers.
- Rinse your retainers with cool water to remove any debris or residue.
- Examine your retainers to ensure they are clean and free from any damage.
- Gently position the upper retainer onto your upper teeth, making sure it fits snugly.
- Apply equal pressure to the retainer with your fingertips, starting from the front and moving towards the back of your mouth.
- Adjust the retainer if needed to ensure it is properly seated on your teeth.
- Repeat the same process for the lower retainer, carefully placing it on your lower teeth.
- Once both retainers are in place, use your tongue to check if they feel secure and comfortable.
- Avoid biting or clenching down too hard on the retainers, as it may cause damage.
- Follow your orthodontist’s instructions on how long to wear the retainers each day.
How Long Do You Have To Wear A Retainer?
The average period for wearing removable retainers is at least 12 months after the removal of your braces, and you might have to wear your retainer full time for the first 4-6 months. But each orthodontic treatment is unique, and the exact duration of your retainer wear is dependent on the type of orthodontic correction you have received.
How To Take Care Of Retainers?
Here are 4 Tips for Proper Retainer Care
- Clean Your Retainers Regularly
Treat your retainer like an extension of your own teeth. After each wearing session, make sure to clean your retainer properly with your toothbrush and water. Don’t brush your retainer with toothpaste as it will scratch it, making it harder to keep clean.
- Soak Your Retainer
Soak your retainer to make it as clean as possible. You can soak it in a product called Retainer Brite which comes in tablet form, or you can create your own cleaning solution by mixing 1 part sodium hypochlorite bleach with 10 parts water. Let your retainer soak for 5-10 minutes and it will come out squeaky clean.
- Replace Your Retainer Whenever Necessary
Even good quality retainers tend to wear out from time to time. If you feel that your retainer is getting worn out or does not fit as well as it used to then you should replace your retainer to ensure that your teeth maintain their intended positions.
- Be Careful When Putting It On
Make sure that your retainer is on all the way when you wear it and that there are no spaces between your teeth and your retainer. Don’t flip your retainer with your tongue when you remove it and don’t pull it out forcefully on one side as this may break it. Make sure that you loosen your retainer in several places before removing it and easing it off. Always store your retainer in its case when it’s not in use.
4 Things to Avoid for Proper Retainer Care
- Harsh Chemicals
Toothpaste and water are enough to clean your retainer. You can add mild vinegar, denture tablets, or baking soda into the water. Avoid adding alcohol-based mouthwash or bleach as they can damage both your mouth and your plastic retainer. Don’t boil your retainer as this can melt the plastic and warp the metal of your retainer.
- Avoid Heat
Your retainer can only do the job for which it was designed if it fits properly. We can give you the perfect retainer for your mouth, but you have to ensure that it stays that way to get the best results. Don’t leave your retainer in hot places as this may cause it to melt, warp, or lose shape. Don’t put your retainer in any hot water either as the intense heat can damage it.
- Keep out of Your Dogs Reach
I understand that dogs are family members, but they usually tend to enjoy chewing up your retainers. Make sure that you keep your retainer out of your dog’s reach.
Don’t wrap your retainers in napkins during your meals as a waiter may accidentally throw your retainer away by mistaking it for a used napkin. Keep your retainer in its case to avoid this.
- Take Your Retainers Out When Eating and Brushing
Can you eat while wearing retainers? It is recommended to remove your retainer before meals to prevent food from getting trapped, which can potentially lead to a build-up of plaque. Always carry your retainer case with you and make sure to store your retainer in it when not in use.
The success of your orthodontic treatment depends upon your ability to diligently wear a retainer. If you experience any issues with your retainers or if you would like to discuss retainer options with us, get in touch with us today!
Q: What is the difference between a retainer and braces?
A retainer is a removable dental appliance that helps maintain the alignment of teeth after orthodontic treatment, while braces are fixed appliances that actively straighten teeth and correct bite issues.
Q: What happens if I don’t wear my retainer?
If you don’t wear your retainer as instructed by your orthodontist, your teeth may gradually shift back to their original positions, undoing the progress achieved through orthodontic treatment.
Q: Can wearing a retainer cause pain?
Initially, you may experience some discomfort or soreness when wearing a retainer, especially during the adjustment period. However, this discomfort should subside as you get accustomed to wearing it. If you experience persistent pain, consult your orthodontist.
Q: When can I stop wearing my retainer?
The duration of wearing a retainer varies depending on individual factors and your orthodontist’s recommendations. In most cases, retainers are worn consistently for a few months to a couple of years, followed by a reduced schedule (such as wearing it only at night) for a more extended period to maintain the teeth’s alignment.
Q: How Much Are Retainers?
The cost of retainers can vary depending on factors such as the type of retainer prescribed by your orthodontist and your location. It is best to consult your orthodontist or their office to get an accurate estimate of the cost.
Q: What should I do if I lose my retainer?
If you lose your retainer, contact your orthodontist immediately. They will advise you on the next steps, which may include getting a replacement retainer to maintain the alignment of your teeth.
Q: What should I do if my retainer gets cracked?
If your retainer gets cracked, contact your orthodontist for an assessment. They will determine if the retainer needs to be repaired or replaced to continue effectively maintaining your teeth’s alignment.
Q: Do retainers straighten teeth?
Retainers do not actively straighten teeth like braces do. Their primary function is to maintain the alignment achieved through orthodontic treatment. However, in some cases, orthodontists may prescribe special retainers that can provide minor tooth movement.
Q: What should I do if my retainer doesn’t fit anymore?
If your retainer no longer fits properly, contact your orthodontist. They will assess your teeth’s alignment and determine whether adjustments to the retainer are necessary or if you need a new retainer to ensure proper maintenance of your orthodontic results.
Dr. Brian Thurman has spent his entire life enjoying all the beauty that California has to offer. A Fresno native, he still escapes to the ocean or the mountains whenever his busy schedule allows. Driven by his love for natural beauty, Dr. Thurman enjoys creating beautiful smiles and healthy bites that last a lifetime. He is proud to be the only Ivy League trained Orthodontist in the Fresno/Clovis area.