Your braces are finally off! You’ve followed every instruction from your orthodontist in Melbourne, FL and now you have the perfect smile, forever and ever — right? Not exactly. Whenever a person’s braces come off, their new best friend becomes their retainers. While retainers are more comfortable than braces, they are a vital part of ensuring that you keep the straight teeth you’ve worked so hard to obtain.
Retainers Prevent Post-Treatment Teeth Shifting
A course of treatment with braces shifts the teeth from their original position into a new one. When the braces come off, the teeth naturally want to try to shift back to their original position. This is true for every patient who gets braces here at Melbourne Orthodontics.
The tendency for the teeth to shift will lessen eventually, but it can be an important issue for about the first 18 months after your braces are removed. This is true whether you are an adult patient or a teen, and whether you have worn traditional braces or Invisalign.
What’s a Retainer?
A retainer is a mouthpiece that is made from plastic and/or metal. Retainers have one big advantage over braces: They are removable, so you can take them out for meals and for brushing your teeth.
Your retainer will be made from a mold that is taken inside your mouth after your braces are removed. There are two types of retainers:
- Hawley Retainers: These are an acrylic retainer that fits against the roof of the mouth and the backs of the upper teeth. A wire goes around the teeth to hold them in the desired position.
- Essix Retainers: This clear plastic-only type of retainer looks very similar to an Invisalign mouthguard. They are barely noticeable and fit over the teeth to hold them in place.
During the first period of months after your braces are removed, your friendly Melbourne orthodontist will recommend that you wear your retainer all the time. This includes while you are asleep. Other than taking it out for meals and brushing, the retainer should stay in place until those stubborn teeth start to accept their new locations!
Duration of Wearing Retainers
The length of time that you will need to wear a retainer day and night varies on a case by case basis. One person might need to keep the retainer in for three months, while another might need to wear it for 18 months after having their braces removed. Your orthodontist will give you specific instructions on this — and you should definitely follow those instructions.
Your teeth will settle eventually and at that point, you will only need to wear the retainer at night. Be aware that nightly retainer wearing can last for an additional one to three years. This is to prevent your teeth from having an orthodontic relapse, which you don’t want to happen after you have invested this much energy into the process!
Once your orthodontist is positive that your teeth have settled into place, you can reduce your nightly retainer use. Your orthodontist will recommend just two or three nights per week. This will be for an indefinite period of time.
The Risk of Not Wearing Your Retainer
Most teens do a great job of diligently wearing their retainers for the first few years after braces come off. Then, as they move into young adulthood, they become less diligent. They tend to “forget,” or they assume that they’re all grown up and their teeth are done shifting. This is not true!
If you don’t wear your retainer as directed by your Melbourne orthodontist, your teeth are going to shift over time. The results will be visible. Thus, the time, effort, and money you put into correcting your teeth will essentially have been for nothing.
The lesson: Wear your retainer as directed for life-long straight teeth!
If Your Retainer No Longer Fits
Many people continue growing a little bit as they enter their 20s. Even a tiny bit of growth can result in a retainer that no longer fits, or which becomes really tight.
If you find yourself having to force your retainer onto your teeth or if it won’t fit at all, it’s a simple process to get a new one. Contact our office at Melbourne Orthodontics. We’ll measure your mouth and get you fitted with a new retainer.