Why is it Important to Wear a Retainer?
The importance of wearing a retainer after orthodontic treatment cannot be emphasized enough. Failure to comply will result in teeth shifting back into their original position and your braces will have been a waste of time and money as they help to keep your teeth set in their new position.
Wearing braces gradually shifts teeth until they are in the correct alignment. As the teeth move, the periodontal membrane and ligaments shift as well which slightly loosens the teeth. Once teeth are in their new position, new bone grows in the socket area of the tooth securing it in place. This process is called bone remodeling.
Teeth have to have time to solidify once they are in their aligned position. A retainer holds teeth in place while this process happens. Without the use of one, teeth have a tendency to move back in their original position. This is called a relapse.
When patients are not compliant with using their retainer as recommended, relapse can occur quickly and the retainer may no longer fit their teeth. In more severe cases, braces may need to be worn again because they have shifted too far back in to their prior position.
When children have their braces removed, their teeth can continue to shift somewhat as they grow. A retainer will keep the teeth in proper alignment while this happens.
The length of time that a retainer needs to be worn varies from person to person and Dr. Taylor will go over this with each patient.
While there are several types of retainers, we use the Essix retainer because it is easier to use and you can’t see it. It looks similar to Invisalign® braces; it’s almost invisible and molded to fit your teeth exactly. The retainer is placed directly over the teeth and is removable. The advantage to the Essix is that it’s more aesthetically pleasing since there is no metal wire involved. It’s not quite as durable as the Hawley and can wear down and stain over time.
Retainer Care Tips
- Always carry your retainer case with you. It can be easily damaged if you put it in your purse and you don’t want to put it in a napkin while eating because there’s a chance it might accidentally get thrown away.
- Keep out of reach of pets. Dogs especially are drawn to the smell of a retainer and can easily destroy it.
- Make sure you remove before eating or drinking anything except for water. Hot drinks can warp the plastic and colored drinks can stain.
- Toothpaste should not be used for cleaning since it can scratch or dull the plastic.
- Soak retainers in an effervescent cleaner such as the ones used to clean dentures.
- When rinsing with water, make sure to avoid using hot water.
- Keep away from heat to avoid warping.
When to See the Doctor
If your retainer starts to feel loose or feels like it’s not fitting correctly, make an appointment to come in and see Dr. Taylor as soon as you can so that it can be adjusted or replaced if needed. If it gets damaged or you lose it, come in as soon as possible. Your teeth can begin to shift in a matter of days so you don’t want to wait long.
If you notice your teeth shifting for any reason whether it be from a damaged retainer or because you haven’t been compliant, come in sooner rather than later. The earlier the problem is addressed, the less drastic the measures will be to correct it.
For more highly technical information on this subject: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4961661/
For any questions, please feel free to contact us.