Why Retainers Are Important After Braces

Orthodontic treatment of any kind takes patience and dedication on your part, and it’s such a liberating feeling when the day finally comes for your braces to come off! In all the excitement, though, it can be easy to forget that you’ve got a little bit further to go on your orthodontic journey.

As a Langford Orthodontics patient, you’ve probably spent enough time around the office to hear us talk about retainers a time or ten. The fact is that braces are just the first step in the journey towards straighter teeth and better oral health. Keeping your smile looking good in the long-term depends on the second part of orthodontic treatment, something we refer to as retention. We don’t stop at simply creating a new smile for you – we help you maintain it over the years by instructing you in regular retainer use. Using the customized retainer we create for you is integral in keeping your teeth from shifting away from their new and improved positions. To learn more about why retainer use is so essential, keep reading!

Retainers go beyond teeth

It may sound strange, but your teeth aren’t the only things we want to move during orthodontic treatment, and they aren’t the only things we want to stay in place afterwards, either. The gums and the bones in your mouth will align to new positions, too, but can sometimes take a little longer to settle into a different position. Teeth aren’t just simply set down in the jaw, each one is held in the socket by elastic ligaments attaching the roots to the bone. These ligaments are living tissue that allow the kind of small movements of the teeth needed to straighten them during treatment.

The first phase of treatment is considered the remodeling phase. Once this phase is complete, all those tissues, ligaments, and bone will need time to stabilize. Teeth will almost always attempt to migrate back to where they came from, and without the use of a retainer to firmly hold them in their new positions, they can eventually shift back to their old positions. It can take anywhere from several months to a few years for the new position of your teeth to become more permanent. By wearing your retainer exactly as Dr. Langford directs you to, you’ll help your teeth, along with the surrounding hard and soft tissues, to realign. This will stabilize your new bite and keep everything where we want it to be .

So what is a retainer?

women holding retainers

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that has been molded and designed to fit each individual patient’s mouth. To create a retainer for you, our team will take an impression or scan of your newly straightened teeth, then create the retainer with either a clear plastic material for an Essix retainer, or from wire and an acrylic material for a Hawley retainer – we’ll talk more about both below.

We believe that the best chance of keeping your smile straightened for life is by wearing a retainer part-time for an indefinite period once your treatment is complete. That can sound very overwhelming at first! But like anything else, the longer you do something, the more it becomes a part of your daily routine. Retainers are no exception. With a little time and patience, you won’t even think twice about wearing it. Eventually, you’ll only need to keep it in overnight a few times a week to keep your teeth where they should be.

In the same way braces do, your retainer may feel a little strange at first, but any initial discomfort should be temporary. Don’t let it deter you from wearing your retainer as directed, because failure to do so can keep it from doing its job. If a retainer isn’t worn regularly, the teeth will begin shifting towards their original positions, leaving you right back where you started.

What are the different types of retainers?

There are two different types of retainers: fixed and removable. When deciding which type of retainer is right for you, Dr. Langford will always takes your specific case as well as your preferences into consideration.

Fixed retainers

Fixed retainers consist of a thin wire positioned across the interior surface of the lower or upper front teeth which is bonded into place. Because the wire stretches across several teeth, you’ll need to practice the same level of oral hygiene you did while in braces. Fixed retainers make it very difficult to keep your teeth clean, but they are helpful in some cases that started with extreme crowding or spacing because the bonded wire is holding the teeth in alignment 24 hours a day. These retainer are nice because you don’t have to remember to put them in your mouth each day, but they do need to be checked often because if they come loose from your teeth, your teeth can move without you being aware that there is a problem.  

Removable retainers

There are two main types of removable retainers.  One is referred to as a Hawley retainer and it is made up of a wire going across the front teeth, held in place with an acrylic material and clasps. The clasps wrap around the back teeth to keep the retainer stationary. This is probably what you think of when you hear the word “retainer.” There is another type of removable retainer that looks very similar to clear aligners or bleaching trays, which is sometimes called an Essix retainer.

Cleaning your teeth is easier with a removable retainer, but like clear aligner therapy, it will not work if it’s not worn daily as directed, and you’ll likely need to wear it all day and all night for a few days and then at night thereafter.

Because they’re removable, these retainers do tend to be more prone to loss and damage. There’s usually a charge to replace lost or broken retainers, so be sure to keep yours in a safe place any time you take it out.

women putting retainer in mouth

A lifetime of straight smiles with Langford Orthodontics

Wherever you are in your orthodontic treatment, Dr. Langford and the entire Langford Orthodontics team are here for you. Whether you’re waiting for the day your braces get put on, or waiting for the day they come off, we’re happy to help with any questions and concerns you may have! Our skilled staff are dedicated to providing a calm, caring environment for each and every patient, and we pride ourselves on our excellent communication skills. Langford Orthodontics will give you the best experience possible from start to finish on your way to a beautiful smile. For more information on the role retainers play after your treatment is complete, get in touch with us today. Langford Orthodontics will keep your teeth in place and a beautiful, straight smile on your face!

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