Orthodontic treatment with braces or clear aligners will create a beautiful smile, but wearing retainers afterwards is what maintains and protects the smile into the future. Retainers are key to maintaining the success of orthodontic treatment over the long term. In fact, wearing retainers is virtually as important as the orthodontic treatment itself!
A retainer is designed to keep the teeth where the previous braces/aligner treatment moved them. For a retainer to properly maintain the results your investment deserves it must be worn according to the guidelines set by the orthodontist.
But let’s face it, getting into the habit of wearing a retainer correctly and keeping it safe can be a challenge! Here’s all you need to know about the importance of retainers, alongside some tips for use and safe keeping.
The importance of a retainer: In a nutshell, retainers are custom-made orthodontic appliances that are designed to hold the teeth in their new positions after orthodontic treatment. If they are not worn as instructed by the orthodontist, the teeth may very rapidly go crooked again.
It is vitally important to understand that it takes time for the mouth to ‘learn’ the new positioning of the teeth once the braces are removed. While some minor changes to the bite and tooth alignment post-treatment are normal, wearing a retainer for as long as the orthodontist recommends is the best way to ensure that the teeth stay straight for years to come.
What type and for how long? There are two types of retainers – fixed and removable. Some patients are recommended a fixed orthodontic retainer (a thin wire placed behind the front upper and/or lower teeth that is invisible from the outside view), while others are encouraged to wear their removable durable plastic orthodontic retainers for as long as possible. Some individuals may wear their removable retainers one or two nights a week long term, whereas others may need to wear their retainers nightly or every other night.
Faces, teeth and jaws are guaranteed to change as we age, but every person is unique. Therefore, only your orthodontist will be able to advise which type of retainers is right for the patient and how often and for how long they should be wearing it.
Tips for living with a removable retainer
Keep it safe: When the retainer is not being worn, it should always be kept safe in its container so it won’t be damaged or lost. Wrapping it in a napkin or tissue isn’t a good idea as it’s more likely to get lost or accidently thrown away.
Clean it regularly: Retainers are exposed to the same bacteria and plaque as the rest of your mouth. They need to be cleaned (or at least rinsed) after every meal. Ensure retainers are cleaned with a toothbrush daily. Retainers can also be soaked in white vinegar or in a cleanser tablet solution to keep them fresh and germ-free – ask the orthodontist for a recommendation as to which tablet can be used.
Protect it from damage: Retainers are mostly plastic, and the two most common ways they can be damaged are from heat and from rough handling. Retainers shouldn’t be placed in hot water, the dishwasher, washing machine, direct sunlight or near a heat source – they’ll warp. Pets such as dogs getting to retainers are a common reason for damaged retainers.
Schedule regular retainer check-ups: And if the retainer starts to lose shape, feel uncomfortable or isn’t fitting correctly, call Maitland Orthodontics immediately.
Tips for living with a fixed retainer
Focus on hygiene: A fixed retainer can be a food/plaque trap, therefore it should be brushed twice daily, and flossed/cleaned between at least once daily.
Protect it from damage: Just like braces, fixed retainers can break if you chew something hard, or if you pick it with your finger nails, toothpicks, etc. Therefore, be mindful of what and how you eat, and if possible, avoid foods that could potentially break or distort the retainer wire.
Call Maitland Orthodontics if something does not feel right: If the fixed retainer feels lose, or if you can feel something out of place, contact us immediately.
Have it checked regularly: It is important to see your orthodontist for regular retainer checks. If you are no longer under the care of your orthodontist, then it’s important that you inform your dentist of that so they can check the fixed retainer. Your orthodontist or dentist will be able to tell you if the fixed retainer is still functional, or if it needs to be repaired.
Although it can be tempting to neglect this final step, it’s important to consistently wear the retainers once braces are removed. Wearing retainers and caring for them properly will help to ensure ongoing retention of a beautiful new smile!