If you’re closing in on finishing up your orthodontic treatment withInvisalign or braces, you may start to think that you are out of the woods and that your days of orthodontic corrective gear are behind you. However, this would be a total fallacy as the fact of the matter is you have only finished one phase of your orthodontic treatment. To make sure that the treatment stays effective, it is absolutely imperative that you follow through with the next step of your orthodontic treatment and that is to get and use your retainer. A retainer is an incredibly important follow-on part of your orthodontic work and will help maintain all the gains that you have gotten so far.
Retainers after braces
But what do the experts have to say about retainers and why are they so necessary?
Relapse can occur when forces from the periodontal fibers around the teeth pull the teeth back towards their pre-treatment position (Johnston, CD & Littlewood, SJ, 2015). Your jaw is not a solid bone, like your arm. It is actually a looser matrix, and your teeth are even held in by ligaments. That’s why orthodontic treatment takes a while, and you need to set the teeth in place to make sure that they stay put.
Retention is necessary after the active phase of orthodontic treatment to prevent a relapse after treatment (Johnston, CD & Littlewood, SJ, 2015).
It is imperative that orthodontists, patients, and their dentists understand the need to wear retainers after orthodontic treatment (Johnston, CD & Littlewood, SJ, 2015). You put in all that work, so don’t stop now!
As we can see above, the experts are all unanimous that retainers are a vital part of maintaining your oral health, but what really is an orthodontic retainer? An orthodontic retainer can also go by a couple of other names such as braces retainer or retainer for braces.
Regardless of what it is called, an orthodontic retainer is a simple device that attaches to your teeth either permanently in the case of a fixed retainer or temporarily, and it can be popped in and popped out depending on your personal preference and needs for meals, brushing, etc. Some people will need to put it in at night for several more years. What are some of the specifics you should know about retainers? What are they used for and how long does it even take to get one in the first place?
What are retainers for?
The names are pretty suggestive unto themselves. A retainer, as its name implies, is designed to retain things in their proper position. In your case, they will be retaining your teeth in the new position that you have gotten after you successfully finished your active orthodontic treatment.
After utilizing braces for so long, you want to make sure that your teeth actually stay in the correct position. If you do not utilize an orthodontic retainer or a retainer for braces, you may well find that your teeth begin to shift back into the incorrect positions that they just came from. This is what the experts were talking about earlier, about the need to make sure that teeth do not move back after you have finished your orthodontic treatment. The last thing that anybody wants is to have to get another round of braces because they simply failed at the follow-up treatment.
Getting orthodontic retainers will help to retain your teeth in the new positions until your teeth are set firmly enough in their new areas to not be at risk of moving or shifting any further. Remember, your orthodontic treatment pulled and moved your teeth into new positions and by doing so caused your teeth to be a little bit loose and not as firmly fixed as they might be otherwise. A retainer just holds them in place until your teeth regain that firm foundation, at which point your orthodontic office will be able to recommend that you can remove your retainers as your teeth are unlikely to shift or move any further.
How long does it take to make a retainer?
As mentioned before, retainers after braces are an important part of your continued orthodontic treatment, especially in the early months or years after getting orthodontic work done. However, especially when it comes to removable retainers, sometimes people can occasionally get careless as time goes on. For one reason or another, this may lead people to accidentally misplace their retainers, put them in the wrong pocket, leave them in a suitcase, not take them with them on a trip, accidentally damage them, or lose them permanently.
If your orthodontic retainer is lost, damaged, broken, or misshapen, you will need to get a new one. This is not the sort of thing where you should simply shrug your shoulders and carry on as the risk of your teeth going back into the wrong positions gets greater the longer that you choose not to wear your retainer. This is why it can sometimes be smart to keep a backup retainer, especially since if you break or damage your retainer it can take a week or two weeks, depending on your particular office, to get a replacement. In a week or two, depending on what state your teeth are in, it could be enough time to cause teeth to begin getting crooked again or to start feeling them shifting into the wrong positions.
Retainer for braces
It is absolutely essential that you wear your orthodontic retainer for as long as your orthodontic office recommends. Anything less does put you at risk of having your teeth revert back into their old positions that you fought so hard to get them out of. It’s because of this it’s important to make sure that you take care of your orthodontic retainer.
An orthodontic retainer should simply be cared for in a similar way that you take care of your own teeth. Brushing it at meals with a toothbrush and toothpaste, making sure that there’s no plaque or build-up, and rinsing it with warm water, will all help to make sure that your retainer continues to do its job for you in maintaining the beautiful smile that you have achieved.
After the initial phase of orthodontic treatment, also called the active phase of orthodontic treatment, the next important aspect orthodontists care about is retention. One of the most frustrating things for an orthodontist and a patient is if the teeth shift positions after the initial phase of treatment.
Retention is the very important phase of orthodontic treatment during which orthodontists attempt to keep the teeth in their corrected positions. If this phase of retention is not successful or not implemented right after the active phase of treatment, there is a high likelihood that the teeth will return to the initial faulty positions.
This is called a relapse and orthodontists aim to prevent relapse as much as possible.
To do this, orthodontists will recommend that almost every patient who has undergone orthodontic treatment should use a retainer to maximize retention. In general, the retainer will be worn ideally for at least 22 hours a day and the orthodontist will either recommend a removable retainer or a more permanent retainer depending on your unique set of circumstances.
A removable retainer lends itself to being removable and therefore is advantageous for maintaining good oral hygiene. It is important that you clean your retainer thoroughly as recommended by the orthodontist.
On the other hand, the advantage of a fixed permanent retainer is that patient cooperation is not required and it is impossible to lose. However, unlike its counterpart, fixed retainers don’t lend themselves well to promoting good oral hygiene. As such, your orthodontist will provide you with guidelines for cleaning your mouth while you have your fixed retainer.
Johnston, C. D., & Littlewood, S. J. (2015). Retention in orthodontics. British dental journal, 218(3), 119–122. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2015.47