Care Following Orthodontics – Retainers
When braces are finally removed, the “retention” phase begins for most individuals. The objective of this phase is to ensure the teeth do not regress back to their previous position. A retainer will be used to maintain the improved position of the teeth. A retainer is a fixed or removable dental appliance which has been custom-made by the dentist to fit onto the teeth. Retainers are generally made from transparent plastic and thin wires to optimize the comfort of the patient.
Retainers should be worn for as long as you want your teeth to be straight. If you want straight teeth forever, then you must wear your retainers forever. If the retainer is not worn as directed, treatment can fail and your teeth can get crooked again.
What types of retainer are available?
There are a variety of retainers available, each one geared towards treating a different kind of dental problem. The dentist will make a retainer recommendation depending on the nature of the original diagnosis and the orthodontic treatment plan.
The most common types of retainers are "fixed" (glued in) and removable. Fixed are easier as you don't have to worry about losing it, but are very difficult to keep the teeth clean. Fixed are much easier to keep your teeth clean because you just take the retainer out and clean your teeth as usual, but removables can be lost.
What do I need to consider when using a retainer?
There are a few basic things to consider for proper use and maintenance of your retainer.
Don’t lose the appliance – Removable retainers are very easy to lose. It is advisable to place your retainer in the case it came in while eating, drinking, and brushing. Leaving a retainer folded in a napkin at a restaurant or in a public restroom can be very costly if lost because a replacement must be created. A brightly colored case serves as a great reminder.
Don’t drink while wearing a retainer – It is tempting to drink while wearing a retainer because of the unobtrusive nature of the device. However, excess liquid trapped under the trays can vastly intensify acid exposure to teeth, increasing the probability of tooth decay.
Don’t eat while wearing a retainer – It can be difficult and awkward to eat while wearing a removable retainer and it can also damage the device. Food can get trapped around a Hawley retainer wire or underneath the palate, causing bad breath. When worn on the upper and lower arches simultaneously, VFR retainers do not allow the teeth to meet. This means that chewing is almost impossible.
Clean the retainer properly – Removable retainers can become breeding grounds for calculus and bacteria. It is essential to clean the inside and outside thoroughly as often as possible. Hawley retainers can be cleaned with a toothbrush. Because harsh bristles can damage the PVC surface of a VFR, denture cleaner or a specialized retainer cleaner is recommended for this type of device.
Wear the retainer as directed – This phase of treatment is critical. The hard work has been done; the braces are off, and now it is tempting not to wear the retainer as often as the orthodontist recommends. Retainers are needed to give the muscles, tissues, and bones time to stabilize the teeth in their new alignment. Failure to wear the retainer as directed can have regrettable consequences, such as teeth returning to their original position, added expense, and lost time.
If you have any questions or concerns about retainers, please contact our office.