You’ve followed all of your orthodontist’s instructions about avoiding certain foods, wearing your elastics as prescribed, keeping up with a great oral hygiene routine and your efforts have shown. Those braces are coming off! Now what?
Believe it or not, your orthodontic treatment isn’t finished just yet. Now you need retainers to keep those pearly whites in their proper positions.
It will take some time for the bone and tissues surrounding your teeth to settle in around them in their new permanent place. Retainers help keep your teeth from shifting while your bite stabilizes.
Retainers can be fixed or removable. Let’s talk a bit about each and explain their benefits.
Fix It & Forget It
Fixed retainers also may be called permanent or bonded retainers, but they all mean the same thing- this is a retainer you’ll never have to worry about leaving behind in a restaurant or school cafeteria because you can’t remove it on your own.
We typically place a small amount of bonding material on the back of each of your lower front six teeth and press a wire into the material. Then we harden the bonding material with a special light.
Fixed retainers sometimes can be placed on the back of your upper front teeth, but the bonding material can interfere with your bite, so this is less common.
The benefits of a fixed retainer include:
- Your teeth will not shift out of alignment as long as your retainer remains bonded in place.
- You don’t have to worry about remembering to wear your retainer.
- You’ll never lose this retainer!
Although it packs some great benefits, there are some factors to be mindful of if you have a fixed retainer:
- You must be diligent with your oral care, because it’s easier for food particles to become lodged between your teeth and the retainer wire.
- Flossing can be a challenge if you don’t have a floss threader handy.
- Failure to maintain an effective dental hygiene routine could lead to plaque and tartar buildup.
Remove It, But Don’t Lose It
Just as the name implies, removable retainers can be taken out when you want. That means you can eat whatever foods you like without fear of bending or breaking your appliance.
We actually offer two types of removable retainers here in our office: Essex and Hawley.
Essex retainers are custom-made from clear plastic to fit over your teeth. They are similar to Invisalign aligners and are virtually unnoticeable when worn.
If you have this type of retainer, take care to keep it away from heat sources, as it can become warped and no longer fit. These retainers also could crack or get holes worn in them if you’re a serious teeth grinder.
The Hawley retainer has a plastic body that is custom fit to the roof of your mouth. A wire attached to it fits around the front of your teeth. In addition to having a retainer customized to fit your teeth, it can be personalized to suit your style, too. You can get Hawley retainers in your favorite color, in support of your favorite sports team, or even with colorful shapes in them, such as a heart or a peace sign.
There’s an added treatment benefit to the Hawley retainer, too. It can be adjusted, which means I can use it to make slight refinements to your tooth alignment if necessary. This type of retainer also is less prone to bending and breaking than the Essex retainer.
There is one major disadvantage to Essex and Hawley retainers if you’re not careful: because they are removable, they can be lost easily. I can’t tell you how many times patients have told us they wrapped their retainer in a napkin and accidentally threw it in the trash after finishing their meal.
We don’t want that to happen to you, so we will provide you with retainer cases – a few, if necessary – and we always will encourage you not to take shortcuts, but to put your retainer in a case every time you remove it.
How Long Must I Wear My Retainer?
Retainers are for life, but it doesn’t mean you must wear your retainers 24/7 unto death do you part. You will wear your retainer constantly during the first few months after your braces are removed. Gradually, you will taper off. Eventually you may get by with wearing your removable retainer just a few nights a week.
I recommend putting in your retainer every few days. If it feels tight, wear it nightly for a few nights until the pressure on your teeth goes away. Then go back to wearing it at least a few nights a week.
What If I Break Or Lose My Retainer?
If you break your fixed retainer, it’s important to contact us for an appointment so we can determine whether it should be replaced with another fixed retainer, or if you should go with a removable one. It is likely that a fixed retainer that has come loose will have left behind some bonding material on your teeth, and maybe even a broken wire. Those issues must be addressed.
It is highly likely that we would recommend a replacement, should you lose or break your removable retainer, for a reason we’ve previously stated: your teeth have a natural tendency to shift as you age.
Wearing your retainer is a way of protecting your investment in your teeth. You don’t want to look back and feel as though you went through the investment of your time and money for nothing, do you? Then wear your retainer as directed.
If you are in search of an orthodontist in Miami to determine whether you or your children might benefit from orthodontic treatment, I ask you to contact my office today to schedule an assessment.