After you’ve gone through the time and expense that orthodontic treatment requires, you certainly don’t want to ruin its wonderful outcome by not wearing your retainers. The purpose of retainers is to stabilize the work that braces have done, helping to ensure that your teeth will remain in their new positions. There are a couple of main types of retainers – removable or fixed – that Dr. Baharak at Smiles For Life Orthodontics in Park Slope might use with patients.
These retainers are exactly as the name suggests; they are not permanently affixed to teeth, but you can remove them as desired. It is very important to wear your retainers as Dr. Baharak instructs to avoid teeth moving into undesirable positions, sometimes even requiring more orthodontic work. It takes at minimum several months for bone and soft tissues around your teeth to stabilize after your braces are removed, so retainers should be worn during that time for best results.
At Smiles For Life Orthodontics, we suggest that patients wear retainers indefinitely after orthodontic treatment. That is the ideal solution, but if not, patients should wear retainers all the time for the first year after braces. After that time, you can switch to wearing the retainer only at night, which is especially effective in avoiding wisdom teeth development negatively affecting your smile. You should visit Dr. Baharak every 6 to 9 months to check your wisdom teeth, and have an X-ray taken every 18 months to help make recommendations about your wisdom teeth. After wisdom teeth issues have been resolved, you should wear your retainer at least one night a week. This is to avoid tooth movement that can occur as you age and your muscles tighten and pressure your teeth.
Keep your retainer in the original case when you’re not wearing it. Since the thermoplastic material is sensitive to heat, do not place it near heaters, dishwashers, car dashboards, or anywhere that exceeds 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t place your retainer where pets might damage it. Always clean your retainer before and after wear to help avoid plaque buildup on the porous surfaces. Remove plaque by gently scrubbing with a toothbrush and mild liquid soap, or use a denture cleaning solution like Efferdent. Rinse the retainer well afterwards to eliminate cleanser residue.
It is normal for retainers that are worn for years to need periodic replacement. Your treatment contract with Dr. Baharak includes one set of retainers after braces. If you lose or damage your retainers from neglect, you will be charged for replacement. If the retainers break or loosen, contact Smiles For Life Orthodontics immediately.
A fixed retainer, or bonded wire, stays in place forever in your mouth. It protects your teeth from movement as you get older and facial muscles tighten. Make sure your dentist examines the wire every six months, because if you are not keeping it clean and it creates gum or bone problems, the wire may need to be removed and replaced with a removable retainer.
Sometimes stronger retention is necessary, such as in these situations:
- Mouth breathing
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- Tongue thrusting, or low or abnormal tongue posture
- Lip sucking
- Pen or pencil biting
- Playing a musical instrument with a reed
- Severely rotated teeth
- Spacing between teeth prior to treatment
Continue proper dental hygiene at home, including brushing and flossing, and see your dentist for checkups and cleanings every six months. This will help ensure your beautiful new smile stays looking great as long as possible.