Finally, your braces are off, and you can’t wait to show off that beautiful smile! Not so fast! Once you complete your treatment, it is very important to wear retainers. Removal of your braces only marks the end of the ‘active’ phase of the orthodontic treatment. However, this is not the end of treatment. Retainers are an important part of the entire process. They are designed to maintain the position of the teeth and the smile you have worked for. It is easy to get carried away with your new beautiful smile and think that you do not need retainers. However, this is the best way to protect your smile.
Retainers serve the purpose of holding your teeth in position. It is very important to wear them because your teeth may relapse or move back to their original position. The movement is due to the elastic fibers which are found in the gums.
They act like rubber bands pulling the teeth in different directions. Again, the natural movement of the teeth happens with age. Retainers, therefore, ensure that the teeth remain in their new position while the area surrounding the gums adapts.
How long do I need to wear retainers?
The length of time that a retainer should be worn varies from one patient to another. It takes some time for the tissues and bones surrounding your teeth to align and reorganize. In light of this, it is recommended that the retainers be worn until you feel that your bite has stabilized. The risk of your teeth relapsing is very high during the first month.
When your teeth relapse, it could take about one year for them to stabilize after treatment. If the teeth assume their original position, you may need an Invisalign to correct the shift. Patients who previously had gaps in between their teeth wear retainers for a longer time frame.
How will my retainers appear?
A retainer is basically an appliance designed to fit against the teeth. It can be made from metal, acrylic or clear plastic. If you are concerned about them being recognizable, you can go for clear plastic ones. However, these need to be replaced periodically. You can also have a wire bonded to the back of the teeth.
Must I wear the retainers at all times?
Based on your dental condition, the orthodontist will recommend the right plan for you. In most cases, specialists recommend that patients wear them full time during the first six months. After evaluation, you may be advised to wear them only at night for several months or years. Other retainers may be worn full time for a week and then at night for several years. Fixed retainers are normally worn for 5 years.
When can I remove my retainers?
If you have removable retainers, they should be taken out when brushing your teeth, eating and when playing contact sports. To clean them, take them out and clean them in tap water using toothpaste and a toothbrush. If your retainer is fixed, you need to brush the back of your teeth thoroughly. Ensure that you brush around the wire to prevent the formation of calculus.
You will also be advised on how to use a floss-threader. Put them back on after brushing your teeth. Retainers are safest when they are in the mouth. It is very easy to lose them, especially if you wrap them in tissue paper. It is better to have a special box where you place them when not in use.
How will my speech be affected?
If a removable retainer is placed in the upper jaw, it may take a few days for you to get used to speaking when wearing them. You may also notice lots of saliva in your mouth after getting a new retainer. Fixed retainers normally do not affect speech; however, you should exercise caution when eating especially biting hard foods.
How will my teeth change after the retention period?
Your bones, including the ones in your teeth, continue to change and remodel as you age. This explains why a broken bone heals with time. If you are between the ages of 20 to 50, your face is still maturing and the teeth tend to push forward which causes crowding.
Crowding will happen regardless of whether you have had any teeth extracted or previous orthodontic treatment. Late crowding can be prevented by wearing the retainers longer. Fixed retainers should be worn for at least 5 years. If you want your teeth to have a perfect alignment, you can wear the retainers at night for the rest of your life.
Retainers for other dental conditions
There are certain dental conditions that do not require the need for Invisalign. In some cases, the specialist may recommend a retainer to help close gaps in between teeth. In such cases, retainers may be worn for several years. Retainers may also be prescribed to treat conditions such as tongue thrusts. This is a misalignment problem where the tongue slips in between the teeth when one is talking. Other conditions that may necessitate the use of retainers are bite problems and temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
An orthodontist is a dental expert trained to treat dental misalignment, crowding and bite issues. Once the specialist does his part, it is up to the patient to make sure that they maintain the position of the teeth. There are many patients who receive orthodontic treatment and then the teeth move back to their previous positions. This is because they fail to wear retainers. You have worked so hard to get that smile, wearing your retainers is the last step to ensuring that you retain your newly acquired smile.
Make an appointment with Dr. Joel Gluck’s or call his office at 615-269-5903 to set up an evaluation.
Dr. Joel Gluck has practiced orthodontics since 1983 when he opened his own office in Nashville. He earned his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis, and his dental degree at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Gluck then completed an orthodontic specialty residency at the University of Michigan, one of the top five orthodontic training residencies in the country. He also wrote an original thesis and received a Master of Science degree.