Orthodontics straighten your teeth to correct a bad bite, teeth that are crooked or protruding, misaligned jaws, and other malocclusions. Over time, untreated misaligned teeth can cause problems with talking, chewing food, becoming cavity-prone, inviting gum disease, and end up creating poor oral health overall.
It is why orthodontic treatment is so important. Straightening teeth has many benefits, like making it easier to keep tooth and gum surfaces free from bacterial plaque, whether or not you use metal or ceramic braces or clear plastic aligners to get the job done. Once this treatment is finished, the next goal is to keep your teeth in their newly aligned position to maintain your dream smile. Then begins phase two of your orthodontic treatment.
Orthodontic Phase II – Wearing a Retainer
Whether you use traditional orthodontics or one of the popular clear aligner options on the market today, you will want to make sure your teeth stay aligned after the treatment ends. Retainers are created specifically for this task of maintaining your smile’s new alignment.
Why Wear a Retainer?
The job of your retainer is to keep your teeth in place after the orthodontic work is completed. One of the reasons is that newly aligned teeth still need to settle into your soft tissues and jawbone that supports them. It is what your retainer does, keeping your teeth from naturally shifting in the months and years to come. In this way, you allow your teeth to adjust to their new positions over time instead of migrating back to their original places. Your retainers are your support system to keep your smile aligned after all your hard work in braces.
When you first finish your orthodontic treatment, that first month can put you at the most risk for your teeth to relapse. Your teeth will try returning to their old position before your orthodontic intervention. This early in the game means you’ll need to wear your retainer around the clock for your first month (except when you’re eating and cleaning your teeth).
After a month, your teeth will be more at home in their new position. However, your teeth will still be vulnerable to moving during the first year after you wear braces or aligners. It means wearing the retainer some of the time so that your teeth don’t forget where they’re supposed to align. Your retainer will be customized to perfectly fit your smile.
Types of Retainers
- Fixed Retainers: Also called permanent retainers, this is a wire cemented to the back of your teeth (often the lower front) to keep them in their proper position. For some patients, they’ll need to be kept there permanently, while for others, it may only need to stay there for a few years.
- Hawley Retainers: This version is perhaps the most common of them all, made from acrylic and metal that conforms to your mouth’s shape while being held in place using a wire that goes around your teeth.
- Invisible Retainers: These clear plastic retainers look like you are not wearing them, and you will take them out when you eat or brush and floss your teeth.
How Long Do You Need To Wear Your Retainer?
For your child or teen, your orthodontist will determine how many hours a day they will need to wear their retainer for them to be effective. Some of this will be determined by the type of retainer they will wear and how much their teeth had to shift from their original positions. They might need to wear it full time during the first month, up to six months, followed by a couple of years at night only. However, if you wore your braces as an adult, the retainer will likely need to be worn more frequently. That’s because aging can change your mouth’s shape (and face), so you may need to wear your retainer at night or have a permanent retainer.
Without a retainer, your teeth will eventually shift back to their original position. You can proactively protect your original investment of time, energy, and money spent in orthodontic treatment by wearing and maintaining your retainer. Give us a call if you have any questions about straightening your smile!