A lot of time and effort goes into the orthodontic treatment process. Whether you’ve spent months or years in braces or aligners to enhance your smile, it’s exciting to finish the process! But the work doesn’t stop when your braces come off. Braces or aligners are only the first step of orthodontic treatment, and the one that comes next is just as important.
After your teeth have been straightened, regular retainer use is the second step of treatment, and it’s necessary to round out the process and help maintain your beautiful new smile. This is why retainers are essential after orthodontic treatment!
Here at Texas Family Orthodontics, you’ll hear us talk about why retainers are essential for keeping your teeth in their new, straighter positions. To help you understand why retainer use is necessary to prevent your teeth from drifting back toward their former places, we’ve put together this helpful guide on why this second step of orthodontic treatment is so important. Keep reading to find out more.
What exactly is a retainer?
A retainer is an orthodontic appliance molded and designed to fit your mouth. We will typically make these by taking an impression or scan of your newly straightened teeth, then creating the retainer with clear plastic material (for an Essix retainer) or from wire and an acrylic material (for a Hawley retainer).
Most orthodontists, including Dr. Vo, now recommend that some retainers be worn part-time for the rest of your life after the teeth have been straightened. It may sound overwhelming at first, but with patience and practice, your retainer will become a part of your daily routine in no time. Eventually, wearing it a few nights a week while you’re sleeping will be all you need to permanently keep your teeth in their desired position.
Your retainers may feel a little strange at first, and can sometimes affect your speech while you adjust. Any initial discomfort shouldn’t last long, so don’t let it keep you from wearing your retainers as recommended. Failing to do so can keep them from doing their job, which means your teeth could begin shifting back over time, undoing the hard work it took to perfect your smile.
Secure gum and bone alignment
Your teeth aren’t the only things we want to stay in place after your braces come off or your last aligner is used. The gums and bones in your mouth will also need to adjust to these new positions. The soft and hard tissues surrounding the teeth can sometimes take a little longer to adjust to a different place, but by wearing your retainers as directed by Dr. Vo, you can help the gums and bones to stabilize in their new place.
Sound complicated? To put it simply, teeth are held in place by elastic ligaments that attach the roots to the bone. These ligaments allow a small amount of movement of the teeth. When tension is placed on the teeth via braces or aligners, the ligaments are stretched and sometimes new ligaments and bone are formed.
Once you complete your treatment (the remodeling phase), your tissues, ligaments, and bones will need time to stabilize. Without the help of a retainer to hold the new positions as they stabilize, your teeth will almost always shift back toward their old positions. It can take anywhere from several months to a few years for the new position of your teeth to become more permanent.
Types of retainers
There are two different types of retainers: fixed (glued to your teeth) and removable. We consider several factors before deciding which kind would best fit you and your lifestyle, including your specific case, preferences, and the expected overall compliance.
A fixed retainer typically consists of a thin wire positioned across the back side of the lower or upper front teeth. This is then bonded with glue similar to the one used to attach braces to teeth. The wire stretches across several teeth, so the dental care required is similar to when you wore braces, particularly when it comes to flossing. So don’t toss your floss threader just yet if a fixed retainer is a possibility!
Overall, a fixed retainer can take a little more work to keep clean, and you do need to be careful not to break it off, it can bring peace of mind since you don’t have to remember to wear it.
There are two types of removable retainers. The first is the Hawley retainer. It has been around for centuries and is made up of a wire going across the front teeth, held in place with an acrylic material and clasps. The clasps wrap around the back teeth to keep the retainer in place. The second type of removable retainer is often called an Essix retainer. It is made of clear plastic, molds to your teeth, and looks very similar to an Invisalign aligner.
Cleaning your teeth is easier with removable retainers, but you must remember to wear them daily. Most people only need to wear their retainers at night. However, occasionally it takes longer for teeth to stabilize, and increased wear is needed.
Always keep your retainers in your case and away from your furry family members. We’ve had more than one patient leave a retainer out to find their dog thought it was a new chew toy! The best way to avoid this dilemma, and the cost to replace them, is to keep your retainers safe in your mouth or in their case.
Retainer Program with TFO
Now that you know what retainers are and why they’re so important for your smile, you probably want to know how to take the next steps. We make it easier than ever with our Retainer Program! With this program, you pay a registration fee and get a certain number of your chosen type of retainer over a three-year period.
By signing up for our retainer program, you can rest assured your smile is covered. Ask a team member how you can sign up at your next visit or contact our San Antonio or Windcrest office today. We’re always here to help maintain your smile for life!
From braces to retainers and beyond with Texas Family Orthodontics
Are you in San Antonio or Windcrest daydreaming about the day your braces come off? Texas Family Orthodontics is happy to help with all your questions and concerns! For more information on the role of retainers after orthodontic treatment, get in touch with us today and let Dr. Vo and our dedicated team help keep your teeth in place and a smile on your face.