The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers

Braces create a beautiful smile, but the retainer maintains/holds the straight teeth in place long after the braces are removed.

Research over the past thirty years has shown that, most people (some studies say over 70%) will see changes to their teeth and bite as they get older. This is true with or without orthodontic treatment. 
teens with teeth preserved by orthodontic retainers - Boca Raton, Coral Springs FL - Cohen Orthodontics

Why Do We Use Orthodontic Retainers?

When your orthodontic treatment is completed and the braces are removed there may be an immediate tendency for your teeth to drift back towards their original positions. This is because the teeth, bones and gums have “memory”. Studies show that this tendency gradually lessens over time. In addition, teeth are constantly in function and natural changes (growth, development and aging) take place in the mouth as in other parts of the body throughout life that effect your teeth and bite. These changes tend to be episodic. You may go for a long time with no change, and then suddenly feel your teeth are changing. This is not predictable and is unique to each person. 

**** The only way to be sure the alignment of your teeth and your bite remains stable is to wear retainers as directed by your orthodontist.****

As the name implies, retainers hold your teeth in their new improved position until the teeth, bones and muscles of the face adapt to their new environment. 

This retention period is extremely important. If you don’t wear your retainers as directed, your teeth and bite may shift (relapse). This would be a great disappointment.

Most orthodontists will require you wear your retainers full-time (24 hours a day) at first, and then at nighttime indefinitely. The amount of time they are worn will vary according to your needs. During the first few days of retainer use, many people experience extra saliva in their mouth. This is natural as the retainers may stimulate your salivary glands. In addition your speech may be altered/slurred for a while after getting a retainer; however, your speech will improve over time as you get use to wearing them. You should return to your orthodontist periodically to be examined and have the retainers adjusted.

Types of Orthodontic Retainers

There are 2 types of retainers: Removable and Fixed/Permanent.

1) Removable retainers that can be taken off to brush your teeth.
The best-known removable retainer is the Hawley retainer, which consists of a plastic baseplate that sits on the roof of the mouth with a wire that typically surrounds the six front teeth to keep them in place. There are two loops incorporated into the wire for adjustment purposes. The advantage of this type of retainer is that the metal wires can be adjusted to finish treatment and continue minor movement of the front teeth as needed. 
Another common type of removable retainer is the vacuum-formed Essix/Invisalign type retainer. This clear or transparent retainer fits over all of your teeth. It is similar in appearance to Invisalign trays. These retainers are virtually invisible and clear when worn.
2) Fixed/Permanent retainers that are permanently glued to your teeth and can only be removed by your dentist.
A Fixed/Permanent retainer typically consists of a passive wire bonded (glued) to the back side of the teeth (usually only lower teeth). Unlike the previously-mentioned retainer types, fixed retainers cannot be removed by the patient. Fixed retainers may lead to tartar build-up or gingivitis due to the difficulty of cleaning and flossing while wearing them. Regular visits to your dentist are a MUST!

How to Care For Your Orthodontic Retainer

Retainers are subject to wear and tear and should be cared for appropriately:
  • Clean your retainers by brushing them gently with your toothbrush and toothpaste in cold water.  
  • To prevent warping, don’t wash your retainers with hot water or leave them near a heat source like toasters, microwaves or a hot car…they will distort
  • Occasionally soak your retainers in a retainer cleansing product to help reduce calculus buildup. Be sure to rinse your retainers off before putting them back in your mouth.
  • Keep your retainers in a safe place and in their cases when you are not wearing them for protection.  
  • Keep your retainers away from any house pets. Pets love to chew on them!
  • Temporarily remove your retainers during contact sports, i.e. football, soccer, wrestling, etc.
  • Always bring your retainers with you to your orthodontic appointment to have them cleaned and adjusted.
  • Should you experience any problems wearing your retainers, contact your orthodontist.
Providing orthodontic services for children and adults in 
Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Parkland, FL and surrounding areas.

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