A retainer is a standard part of any orthodontic treatment. This device is used to keep your teeth in their new, straighter position after the braces come off. Proper use and care of your retainer is a vital part of the success of your orthodontic treatment overall.
Types of Retainers
There are two basic types of retainers:
Removable Retainers – Removable retainers are devices that you can take out and put in, making it easier to eat and keep your teeth and your retainer clean. Removable retainers tend to be more convenient, but they also require more care to keep them in top condition.
Permanent Retainers – These retainers are bonded to the back of the teeth and are only removed by an orthodontist. They may be recommended in the first few months after braces have been removed to ensure teeth do not move from their new positions. They may be recommended for younger patients that are not mature enough for the responsibility of caring for their retainer.
Retainer Use: First 12 Months
For the first 3-6 months after your braces are removed, you will be expected to wear your retainer 12-22 hours every day. This ensures all the hard work done by your braces will not be reversed in the first few months while the teeth are still most prone to movement. Specific time for retainer wear will be based on your age, severity of your correction and whether additional correction is hoped for with the wearing of the retainer.
After the initial six months, most patients are able to limit their retainer to nighttime wear. When the teeth are moved to a new position with the braces, the bone on one side of the tooth softens or disappears completely. When the tooth is settled into its new position, the bone will start to grow back again. That growth takes approximately 12 months, which is why retainer wear needs to be worn daily until the one-year mark.
Retainer Wear for a Lifetime
Once you have passed the timeline for daily retainer wear, you will be able to drop your use to around 3-5 per week over the rest of your lifetime. Some patients are taken aback at the idea of having to wear a retainer forever. However, there are some very good reasons why your orthodontist is likely to make this recommendation.
First, your teeth will continue to shift as you age, slowly moving to the front of the mouth and disrupting the bite created by the braces. A University of Washington study in the 1990s found that people that wore their retainer part-time over the course of their lifetime had straighter teeth than those that did not. The results remained consistent among those that had teeth removed or other changes that took place inside the mouth.
Tips for Caring for Your Retainer
While your retainer won’t last over your entire lifetime, proper care can help it last many years before it needs to be replaced. This means keeping your retainer clean using a toothbrush and toothpaste or a special cleaner made for this purpose. It also means keeping your retainer in its hard plastic case when it is not in your mouth to prevent loss or damage.
At La Jolla Cosmetic Dentistry, we offer a wide range of cosmetic dentistry services to help you achieve a brighter, healthier smile. To learn more about our services, contact a member of our staff today at 858-622-1007.