It is easy to think of orthodontic treatment as the period of time in which braces or aligners are used to shift the teeth into a straighter position. However, this is only the first phase of treatment. The second phase – the retention phase – is equally important and essential for maintaining your beautiful new smile.
When the Braces Come Off Orthodontic Treatment Doesn’t Stop
After the braces phase of treatment is complete, your orthodontist will fit you for another orthodontic device, your retainer. The name comes from its function: to retain the teeth in place and keep them from reverting to their old positions. Now that your smile is in alignment, we must give the bone and ligaments surrounding your teeth time to stabilize and keep your teeth in their new positions. That’s why you must wear a retainer after treatment to keep teeth from moving back to where they were before.
Types of Retainers
There are two types of retainers: removable and fixed. Removable retainers come in clear or colored options. Acrylic retainers come in many different colors, which may make children more likely to wear them. Clear, overlay retainers are popular with older teens and adults who prefer a more discreet appearance. Though removable retainers are convenient, they must be stored when not in use to avoid loss or damage. Retainers need to be cleaned regularly.
Fixed retainers are thin wires that are permanently bonded to the backs of the teeth. They are sometimes called permanent retainers. Because they are worn 24-hours a day holding the teeth in exact alignment, they offer the best maintenance results. Of course, a fixed retainer requires the wearers to take greater care in cleaning between them when brushing their teeth.
What to Expect
Dr. Larson will give you instructions on exactly how often you should be wearing your retainer. A common timeline for retainer wear includes:
24-Hour Retainer Wear
When your braces first come off, you may be required to wear your retainer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the first several months (up to two years) after your braces come off. This is to make sure your smile is stabilized. Over time, most patients wear their retainers less and less—it’s not forever!
Once the teeth have stabilized, you may be allowed to wear your retainer less, beginning with wearing your retainer every night. Eventually, you may be able to taper off to just a few nights per week. This will help prevent minor tooth movements, and is the frequency you will maintain for life. If you notice a change in the way that your retainer fits, that is a sign that the teeth are shifting and intervention may be necessary. In most cases, simply wearing your retainer more often is enough to prevent relapse.
Smiles for Life
If at any time during the retention phase you have questions about your retainer or feel that it is no longer fitting properly, has been lost or stolen, contact our office. Our goal is to help you achieve a beautiful smile and help you maintain it for a lifetime. The effects of not wearing a retainer at all could cost you additional time and money.
The only way to prevent movement is to wear your retainer in some capacity for the rest of your life.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!