Completing your orthodontic treatment is quite eventful. In some cases, the patient will spend several months, if not a couple of years, wearing orthodontic appliances to ensure that their teeth properly realign.
Achieving the perfect smile takes time, patience, and a lot of effort. When your orthodontist finally tells you about your final visit to remove your braces or clear aligners, you’ll be understandably excited. But there’s one more push we have to make.
Most often than not, you may suffer from orthodontic problems like excessive spaces between your teeth or crooked teeth due to genetic factors. Meaning that your dental issues could return after you finish your treatment due to orthodontic relapse.
How do we avoid such problems? What are retainers? What are the types of retainers available to you? Let’s talk about why it’s essential you wear a retainer after braces have completed most of the work.
Finishing your Orthodontic Treatment
It sure was a long process. You bravely came to the office and agreed to have metal brackets and wires bonded and fixed to your teeth. There sure were a lot of sacrifices all throughout your oral care. If you wore traditional metal braces, you may have stayed away from crunchy and sticky foods that could damage your braces.
If you wore other alternatives, such as clear ceramic braces, then you may have had to follow similar directions. And if you used clear aligners, you certainly faced the urge to take off the trays whenever you felt like it.
Fortunately, you used your appliances with pride and followed all instructions. You kept your clear aligner trays on anywhere between 20 and 22 hours every day. Those are noteworthy accomplishments.
Other challenges included some changes to your oral hygiene routine. You likely had to brush and floss your teeth more often and avoid foods and beverages that are more likely to hinder your oral hygiene. Likewise, you may have had to invest in additional tools such as interdental brushes, and a floss threader were all necessary for your quest for perfect teeth.
But now, you have one final hurdle to overcome. Your genetics may affect your tooth positioning, and if we want to fight this unfortunate shifting of teeth after so much work and effort, we have to use retainers.
What Are Retainers?
“Why do I even need that? I have to wear them for how long?”
This is the typical reaction that I get whenever I talk about retainer wear. Parents’ eyes get wider, and they have a look of shock on their faces – says Dr. Nima Hajibaik, an experienced orthodontist serving his neighbors from Alpharetta and Johns Creek.
Most orthodontists consider this final phase of treatment is critical. Unfortunately, patients and patient’s parents assume that since the visits are not as frequent, the importance of this phase is somehow much less than the active orthodontic treatment.
Retainers are an orthodontic appliance designed to, well, retain teeth and jaws in their final position. We want to avoid your teeth sliding back to their original position to ensure your cosmetic, functional, and dental-health-related treatment goals.
Keep in mind that your orthodontist will recommend using a specific type of retainer to ensure all your hard effort pays off.
What Types of Retainers Are There?
As with other appliances, there are several versions meant to do the same. You could benefit from changes in design that allow you to remove your retainers to eat, or you might do better if you have permanent retainers. Ask your orthodontist about the appliance that fits your needs better.
What won’t change is the fact that you’ll need a retainer to avoid counterproductive tooth movement.
If your genetic coding dictates that you should have misaligned teeth and a “ bad “ bite, we as orthodontists will do whatever we can to change that and give you the smile you deserve.
“I usually use the facelift analogy with my patients,” explains Dr. Nima. He continues: “Let’s assume that an individual receives a facelift at age 50; no one in their right mind expects them not to age for the next 30 years”.
If you appropriately wear your retainer, you can counteract the genetic coding that is constantly working to return your wonderful smile to the way it used to be.
Recommendations to Care for Your Retainer
We would start by advising that if you are wearing removable retainers, you should still wear your retainers full time for the first 1-2 months to let the teeth settle in their new position and then wear them at night indefinitely. Yes, indefinitely, because all the other factors are working against you constantly.
Keeping Your Retainer Clean
Trust us; you’ll want to keep them clean.
The same as with your braces or clear aligners; if you don’t pay attention to your oral hygiene and keep your retainer clean, you’ll increase the risk of plaque build-up and tooth decay.
- Permanent Retainers. These retainers remain bonded to the “inside face” of your teeth. Considering that this is the side where your tongue sits, we refer to these sets of retainers as a lingual retainer. Make sure you carefully floss between your teeth and the retainer itself. Remove all food particles as best as you can with the help of a floss threader, Waterpik, or other tools your orthodontist recommends.
- Removable Retainers. The best thing to do here would be to get a soft-bristled toothbrush and soak your orthodontic retainer in lukewarm water. Don’t leave your retainer out to dry while there’s still saliva on it. If you leave your retainers unattended, the saliva might create a film that gives it an unpleasant smell. Try to clean your retainers daily and carefully.
Get Help From a Certified Orthodontist
For more information and questions regarding orthodontics and retainers, contact your orthodontist or get in touch with our office.
Dr. Nima has helped countless patients achieve a bright smile that stands to the test of time. Cooperation between dental specialists and their patients is critical; ensuring all the hard work yields permanent results keeps us motivated.