Braces are just one of the many things a person can experience early in life that will make things much easier in the future. Correcting the bite and the overall cosmetic look of your teeth while you are young is important to your future, overall oral health, and can bring easier, longer-lasting results if done when you are a kid. But, braces are not a temporary orthodontic treatment. It is a lifelong commitment to healthy, straight teeth. And many times, this means wearing a retainer for a prolonged period in order to keep your child’s teeth looking and feeling as fresh as they did the day the braces came off.

Let’s start at the beginning, though, with braces. There are many options when it comes to orthodontic braces (nickel and other metals, clear braces, and Invisalign; rubber-banded or self-ligating) but there are a few things that are the same for all patients. One is that having braces will require a lot of check-ups with an orthodontist, before, during, and after the time your child has his or her braces on. This is to monitor the progress and change gears, if needed. Another is that braces are typically on patients for one to three years, especially for kids. Finally, almost all patients (again, especially with children) will need to wear a retainer post-treatment in order to help set their teeth permanently.

Like braces, retainers are also custom fitted for each patient (based off of a new mold post-braces), and unlike traditional metal braces, are usually removable. They are made of rubber and metal and, as previously stated, help to set the new formation of your child’s teeth once their braces have been removed. A retainer is crucial in the six months following braces, because the bones, gums and muscles in your child’s mouth and jaw still need to get used to the new setting of their teeth. So, typically, children (and adults receiving treatment) will need to wear their retainer all day, everyday, for six months after their braces have been removed, aside from eating and cleaning. After that, it is usually suggested that a child continue to wear their retainer at night indefinitely so that the teeth do not shift back or become otherwise crooked. Sometimes, the 24 hour retainer wear is extended if your child has more adjustments to be made. The most typical type of retainer is known as a Hawley retainer, which is made of metal hooks and acrylic plates, and can cover the top and bottom set of your child’s teeth. Invisalign braces have a special type of retainer called an Essix retainer, which mimics the style and feel of Invisalign braces. A small, permanent retainer known as a bonded retainer may need to be glued to the back of the teeth, usually the lower or lingual teeth, if there is a bigger risk of tooth movement in a child’s mouth. These bonded retainers are truly permanent, and will require special appointments later in life for removal.

As you can see, so much of orthodontic braces and retainers is personal and specific to your child’s mouth. It is important to receive this treatment when you are young for the greatest, quickest results, and that you follow the instructions of an orthodontist to a “T” in order to give your child a winning smile.