The braces are off and you or your child has a gorgeous smile! There’s nothing left to do but keep those pearly whites clean and sparkling, right? Not so fast!
Orthodontic treatment is a commitment. Whether you or your child has metal braces or Invisalign, a dedication to rigorous oral hygiene, and regular appointments are required for the best outcome. We’d all love to think that once the braces are off the results are permanent. Not true without retainers. The biology that allowed us to straighten your teeth and smile, doesn’t change the ability of your teeth to move. In most cases, following a basic retention plan would have helped them retain their smile for many decades, if not the rest of their lives!
Below, we answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about retainers:
How often should I wear my retainer?
- After braces are off, wear your retainer(s) 12-14-hours evening /night, every day. Remove them only for meals. This first month is when the risk of relapse is greatest. If your teeth feel like they “want” to shift – WEAR THEM MORE!
- We see patients after one month to determine if you can go to night wear only.After a year, many people can retain the position of their teeth by wearing their retainers only 3 nights a week. But be diligent! If your retainer starts to feel tight, go back to wearing it every night until it feels more comfortable again.
- If you have a “fixed” retainer wire, you must keep it clean and call the office immediately if it is loose.
How long should I wear my retainers?
- Forever! However long you want to preserve the alignment of your teeth is how long you need to wear your retainers. According to Dr. Lindgren, “you should plan to go into the nursing home with them…Retention is for life!!!”
Why do teeth tend to shift?
- Teeth are dynamic and will continue to move and shift over time and as we age. Teeth are held in place by bone and ligaments. The ligaments have a memory and often want to return the teeth to their original position. Retainers can help keep the teeth in place.
- There are other forces that may also apply pressure to the teeth: Outward pressure of the tongue, inward pressure of the lips, chewing, clenching or grinding, nail-biting and/ or aging.
How should I care for my retainers?
- Rinse after drinking
- Brush and clean your retainer every morning and night (when you brush your teeth)
- Use antibacterial soap or a denture cleaner, like Efferdent, every day or at least once a week to kill germs and remove stains. Use warm, not hot water. Be sure to rinse thoroughly
- Do not use toothpaste for clear retainers as they can become clouded
- Never boil, microwave or use heat to clean retainers
How long does a retainer last?
- The life of your retainers can depend on how well you take care of them. They will need to be replaced periodically due to normal wear. Leave them in their case when not in use. Keep them away from pets! Check for signs of wear and tear and notify your orthodontist immediately if there is a problem.
- Think of retainers like eye glasses. Sometimes they last a long time, sometimes just a year. It is much cheaper to replace a retainer than to go through the orthodontic treatment again.
Is it worth it?
- Absolutely! Ask any adult whose teeth have shifted after orthodontic treatment whether they wished they had worn their retainers…the answer will be YES! Braces are an investment both in time and money. Retainers are a simple way to preserve your beautiful smile!