The day you get your braces off is a day for celebration. But, it doesn’t mean you’re finished with the work of perfecting your smile.
“Orthodontic patients often countdown the days until their braces are removed, thinking that it signifies the end of their journey,” says Dr. Nima, an Alpharetta orthodontist. “But really, it’s only the beginning of your journey with your new smile, and one that will only have the ending you hope for if you wear your retainer.”
You’ll get your retainer the day your braces come off, and along with it, details on how to use it. But we sometimes find patients calling us after their braces have come off to tell us their retainer no longer fits.
The first reason we see this is because the patient has done something to alter or distort the shape of the retainer. We see this most often in patients who have clear plastic retainers, similar to Invisalign aligners. With this type of retainer, its fit can be affected by a number of things, such as drinking hot beverages with it in or continuously running it under hot water. The heat can warp the plastic, and even just minor warping can change the way the retainer fits in your mouth.
But patients who wear the more traditional wire and acrylic retainer can still experience a warped shape. This can be caused by taking the retainer out and putting it in incorrectly, by accidentally sitting or stepping on it, or by playing with the front wire. If this has happened to you or your child, make sure to have your retainers fixed immediately by an orthodontist or dentist! There’s no reason to be scared of the dentist or orthodontist; they’re happy to help in these emergencies!
But the biggest reason for a retainer no longer fitting is because the retainer isn’t being worn as it was prescribed.
“Your teeth aren’t ready to stay in their new positions on their own immediately after your braces come off,” says Dr. Nima. “To move the teeth, they had to be loosened, and that means the ligaments that hold them in place did, too. These tend to be elastic, so their natural reaction will be to go right back to where they were. They need to be trained to stay in their new locations, and that’s exactly what a retainer helps to do.”
The other reason that retainer wear is extremely important is the fact that as we go through life, even if you’ve had a perfect set of teeth, your teeth will shift and change just like everything else in your body. Retainers keep teeth in their optimal position so that the supporting tissues can mature into place after you take off your braces. Wearing your retainer almost acts like an anti-aging tool for your teeth!
You may find that if you don’t wear your retainer, your teeth can drift back to where they were before. The length of time you’ll need to wear your retainer will depend on multiple factors. You can’t compare your retainer use to anyone else’s because everyone’s teeth respond differently to treatment. So if your best friend only has to wear her retainer at night, but your orthodontist recommended you wear yours round the clock in the beginning, it’s in your best interest to follow your orthodontist’s instructions. Read More: What?? I Need To Wear My Retainers For How Long?
If you lose or damage your retainer, call your orthodontist’s office right away to be fit for a new one. The longer you put it off, the higher the likelihood of experiencing some degree of relapse. In order to avoid going right back to square one, it’s best to wear your retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist and to care for it properly.