You've worked hard for your beautiful smile; keep it that way!
Finally, your braces have been removed and your smile is beautiful, straight, and best of all, metal-free! However, your orthodontic journey isn't quite completed. To keep your smile looking its best, you'll have to wear a retainer to preserve and stabilize your results. Retainers are needed to control or limit potential changes in tooth position. They are used after braces treatment to hold teeth in their correct alignment while the surrounding gums, bone, and muscle adjust to the new positioning of your teeth.
Types of Retainers
Retainers are custom-made and can be removable or fixed.
- Traditional removable retainers typically include a metal wire that surrounds the front teeth and is attached to an acrylic arch that sits in the roof of the mouth. The metal wires can be adjusted to finish treatment and continue minor movement of the front teeth as needed.
- Aligner-style retainers, or Essix retainers, look similar to clear aligners and offer a more aesthetic alternative to wire retainers. This clear retainer may fit over the entire arch of your teeth, or only from canine to canine (clip-on retainer). It is produced from a mold of your newly aligned teeth.
- Fixed retainers consist of wires bonded behind the bottom and/or top teeth. While the device is usually required no more than a year after wisdom teeth have been extracted, it is often kept in place for life.
Pros and Cons
- Removable retainers can be taken out for eating and hygiene routines.
- Removable retainers can get lost easily, so remember to keep yours in the case whenever you remove it to eat or brush.
- A fixed retainer is great if you don't want to keep track of it, or if you don't want to worry about how many hours per day it must be worn.
- Teeth with fixed retainers require a little extra attention to remove tartar while flossing. Patients with fixed retainers often must use floss threaders to pass dental floss through the small spaces between the retainer and the teeth.
You and Your Retainer
Why wear retainers?
Upper and lower retainers are placed after braces are removed to hold the teeth in their correct position. It takes several months for the bone to rebuild itself around the roots of the teeth. For this reason, it is very important that you wear your retainers as Dr. Allen instructs.
Is any teeth movement normal?
It is likely that you will have some movement of the teeth once the retainers have been discontinued; but it is difficult to determine how much tooth movement will occur. This is due to the normal aging process, and unfortunately, aging is something over which we have no control.
What happens if I don’t wear my retainers?
If the retainers are not worn, your teeth will begin to shift very rapidly toward their original crooked position. Movement will be noticed after only a few days without retainers. This is why it is so very important to wear the retainers as instructed. Re-treatment, if necessary, will be an extra fee!
How do I care for my retainer?
The retainer should be placed into and removed from your mouth exactly as you were instructed. To care for the retainer, brush it with toothpaste when you brush your teeth, three times a day. Never boil your retainer or use denture cleansers. When not wearing your retainer, be sure and keep it in the case we have provided. We have found that the most common reason for losing a retainer is that patients have not used their retainer cases.
What do I do if I break or lose a retainer?
If you lose or break your retainer, call the office immediately. The longer you are without a retainer, the more your teeth will shift. There will be a charge for replacing or repairing your retainers.
Why do I need my retainers checked?
We will see you periodically to check your retainers and to be sure they are doing their job. At this time, we will also be monitoring the movement of your wisdom teeth (if you have them). As an adult, you will need to wear retainers for a longer period of time than would a child. It is not uncommon for our adult patients to sleep in their retainers for several years before discontinuing their use.
- Wear your retainer at all times, until the doctor instructs otherwise.
- Take your retainer out when eating, and always put it back in its case! (Most appliances are lost in school lunchrooms or restaurants.)
- Clean the retainer thoroughly once a day with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Use warm but not hot water. Brushing retainers removes the plaque, and eliminates odors. Efferdent® or other orthodontic appliance cleaners can be used but do not take the place of brushing.
- When your retainer is not in your mouth, it should ALWAYS be in its case. Pets love to chew on them!
- Initially, you may find it difficult to speak. Practice speaking, reading, or singing out loud to get used to it faster.
- Retainers are breakable, so treat yours with care. If your retainer gets lost or broken, call us immediately.
- If you have any questions or concerns about your retainer, or you believe it needs adjusting, call us. Do not try to adjust it yourself.
- Always bring your retainer to your appointments.
- Retainer replacements are expensive, but with proper care they will last for years!
- Remove your retainer when you go swimming.
- Keep retainers away from hot water, hot car dashboards, pockets, the washing machine, and napkins.