Post Orthodontic Treatment

Mother and son.Your braces will come off before you know it. Soon you’ll be able to run your tongue over your smooth, straight teeth and smile with rejuvenated confidence and self-esteem. However, just because you have moved past the braces phase of orthodontic treatment, that doesn’t mean your orthodontic journey is over. In order to maintain the results of your braces or other orthodontic treatment, it is vital that you adhere to your post orthodontic treatment requirements (i.e. your retention phase). What that boils down to is wearing a retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist.

What Are Retainers?

Types of orthodontic retainers.Retainers are orthodontic devices that ensure your teeth “retain” the positions they were moved into during the braces phase of your orthodontic treatment. In other words, retainers keep your teeth from shifting back to where they were before. There are three types of retainers:

  1. Hawley Retainers are the most common type of retainer. They feature a thin, tongue-shaped piece of acrylic molded to fit your mouth and a wire that holds your teeth in position. Hawley Retainers provide flexibility, patients can choose from an assortment of colors, and Hawley Retainers are usually the most cost-effective option.
  2. Invisalign Retainers are the best option for those looking to wear a retainer without others noticing. They are made of a thin, clear plastic and don’t utilize any wires. These retainers are also easy to remove, but are not as durable as Hawley Retainers.
  3. Fixed Bonded Retainers attach to the back of teeth and are not removable. However, they are also not visible either, so people will not know if you have one. This type of retainer is great for those patients who are at a higher risk of teeth reverting to their former positions.

Why Do I Need Retainers?

Braces move your teeth to a straighter, more aligned position. This is accomplished by applying strategic, light pressure onto your teeth. Teeth are not set in bone; rather, they are connected to a network of fibers known as periodontal ligaments. These ligaments lend themselves to the movement that braces cause. After you finish with braces your teeth have grown accustomed to shifting though, and as a result they can shift back to their original positions via the same ligaments that allowed them to be straightened in the first place. That is why our orthodontists emphasize the importance of retainers; they keep this kind of backtrack shifting from happening so you can keep your new, beautiful smile as is.

Are Retainers Uncomfortable?

Retainers should not be uncomfortable if they are worn when instructed and fitted properly. There will be an adjustment period at first where you get used to the feel of the new device. During that period you may find it a little more difficult to speak while wearing the retainer. But this goes away with time as you get used to the device.

How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer?

The amount of time needed to wear a retainer post braces largely depends on the patient and how each patient’s periodontal ligaments react. At first your orthodontist will probably tell you to wear your removable retainer all day, every day—except while eating. This 24/7 period of retainer-wear usually lasts for a few months to a year. Later on your orthodontist may say that it is okay to only wear your retainer at night. Eventually you'll probably only need to put it on just a few nights a week to ensure your smile stays straight.

Maintaining Your Retainer

Every retainer has different guidelines for care. Please see below for specific care instructions:

  1. Hawley Retainers should be brushed with a toothbrush at least once a day.
  2. Invisalign Retainers should not be brushed, but rather soaked in a denture cleaner to ensure bacteria doesn’t build on them.
  3. Fixed Retainers are cleaned by brushing and flossing.

Contact Coastal Carolina Orthodontics Today

Your retention phase is vital to your smile’s success post orthodontic treatment. Retainers allow you to maintain your newly straightened smile, and ensure that the investment you made in your orthodontic treatment is not wasted. Therefore, it is imperative that you follow your retention instructions as prescribed by your orthodontist. To learn more about retention and retainers, schedule an appointment with the Coastal Carolina Orthodontics team at our Morehead City, Havelock, or Jacksonville, NC location. We’re always happy to discuss your retention/retainer options in more detail!

Related Articles

Orthodontic Retainers - Dear Doctor Magazine

The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers Decades ago, orthodontists used to think that once teeth were moved into the “right” positions, they would stay there forever. Research over the past thirty years has shown that this is not true — there is no “right” position that can assure a permanent, unchanging result. The only way to be sure the alignment of your teeth and your bite remains stable after orthodontic treatment is to wear retainers as needed and as directed by your orthodontist or dentist... Read Article

Orthodontic Retainers - Dear Doctor Magazine

Why Orthodontic Retainers? It is common to wear retainers following orthodontic treatment or what people commonly refer to as braces, for good reason. Teeth must be “retained” or stabilized in their new position long enough for the gum tissue, bone and ligament to reform and mature around them, which can take several months. The teeth will tend to relapse into their old position quite rapidly if the retainers are not worn... Read Article