Removing braces signals the start of the retention and observation period of your orthodontic care. Please remember that this part of your orthodontic treatment is just as important as the active movement phase in determining the ultimate success of your treatment. Once the teeth have been moved into their desired positions, a period of time is needed to stabilize the teeth so that the surrounding bone and soft tissues can conform to your new dental alignment. Additionally, when braces are removed, it is a good time to visit your dentist for a thorough cleaning and exam.
How long are retainers worn?
Each person’s requirements are different, and a longer period, a different schedule, or a different retainer design may be necessary. However, in general, we recommend that retainers be worn all day and night for the first six weeks. After that transition period, the retainers should be worn every night for the first year.
Will my teeth move back after treatment?
After the first year, your teeth should be stable from any orthodontic movement; however, the position and fit of teeth generally changes throughout your life, with or without orthodontic treatment. Our goal in the retention phase of your treatment is to limit these changes to the natural process of accommodation while maintaining both a good functional and aesthetic result. We recommend that you keep your retainer around and wear it somewhat regularly as long as you want your teeth to stay straight. When retainers are discontinued, we have no more control over your teeth and there may be minor changes in tooth position.
Types of retainers
Patients have a choice in the style of the retainers they receive after braces. We offer clear plastic retainers that cover all surfaces of the teeth. These retainers hold the teeth better than the traditional acrylic and wire type of retainers and they are nearly invisible so patients prefer the look when they wear them. We also offer bonded or "permanent" retainers for the lower teeth. This consists of a wire bonded to the back of the lower front teeth. This type is convenient and esthetic but not removable and not adjustable. The bonded retainer can sometimes be used on the top teeth, but often the lower teeth bite behind the top teeth in a way that would cause the upper retainer to come unglued.
Taking care of retainers
Keeping the retainer either in the mouth or its case will avoid loss or breakage, which would lead to extra expense. Brushing the retainer with cool water and soaking it in a dental cleanser periodically will keep it fresh. Never place your retainer in hot water, as it may become distorted and require replacement. If a brush is not available after eating, rinse off your retainer and place it back in your mouth or its case. Beware of wrapping your retainer in a napkin on your lunch tray, where it may end up in the trash. This is the number one way that retainers are lost!
What if a retainer is lost or broken?
Phone the office right away for an appointment to replace or repair your retainer. Although there may be a charge for replacement or repair, it is a relatively inexpensive way to protect the investment you have made in your orthodontic care.