Life after Braces
Congratulations! Your braces are off! While many patients are eager to be done with braces once they come off, the fact is that retainers do as much work if not more than the braces themselves. Straight teeth don’t just get that way; they stay that way with the help of retainers.
Why are retainers so important?
When the braces come off, the teeth can still shift if not allowed a period of adjustment to settle in. The retainer permits this “adjustment period” by gently but purposefully keeping your child’s straight teeth straight!
Years ago, patients and clinicians thought you could straighten your teeth and they would stay straight forever. However, research has now shown that they only way to guarantee straight teeth for life is through the use of fixed or removable retainers for life.
As we age, teeth naturally shift to the middle and crowd. Therefore retainers are extremely important in the maintenance of your new smile following orthodontic treatment.
Removable retainers have been used successfully for many years and are probably the most common type of retainer. Since removable retainers can be taken out, patients frequently ask how long they have to wear the retainer. Most relapse, or unwanted tooth movement, occurs in the first 3-6 months after the braces are removed.
A retainer is a small device that is made out of clear plastic, rubber, or even metal. They are custom-made so that they only fit your teeth after having your braces removed. During the process of wearing braces, the teeth have been moved into the desired position, but they are not yet settled into the gum and jaw. By using a retainer, it helps to further set your child’s teeth in their new position.
For the average patient, your child will wear his or her removable retainer full-time for the first 3-6 months, and thereafter only while sleeping. A patient with severely misaligned jaws and teeth might wear retainers for longer duration than a patient with only minor tooth-alignment problems. If you are unsure of his or her retention program, be sure to ask your child’s orthodontist or orthodontic assistant for specific instructions regarding the wear and care of your child’s retainers.
A fixed retainer is placed (glued) on the inside surface of the lower front teeth. A fixed retainer is very efficient at maintaining the positions of the teeth. With placement of a fixed retainer cleaning between your teeth is often more difficult. Ask your orthodontist, dentist, and dental hygienist for tips and tricks to help you keep your teeth clean while wearing a fixed retainer. With proper care and regular visits to your general dentist, your fixed retainer can be left in place until lower jaw growth is completed (early adulthood) or indefinitely, as indicated.
While retainers may seem like a nuisance after your child has spent so long in braces, why risk letting all the hard work her or she has already done go down the drain when a simple appliance can help ensure straight teeth for life?