You’re getting your braces off in a few days, and you have a stash of chewing gum and Laffy Taffy waiting for you to help celebrate the occasion. Popcorn and soda will make it into your agenda at some point as well. You can’t wait. You have reason to be excited, you stuck it out, and the payoff is a million-dollar smile you are genuinely proud of.
However, don’t get so excited after your braces come off that you forget your orthodontic treatment isn’t over. You must wear your retainers! Trust us on this one. Keeping your teeth straight is a long-term commitment. Unfortunately, getting braces doesn’t guarantee that your teeth will stay straight forever.
Our teeth typically shift as we age, whether we’ve had braces (and aligners) or not. There are two types of teeth movement:
1. Post-Treatment Shifting
Once your treatment is over, there’s a good chance your teeth will want to start shifting back to their original positions.. Luckily, this tendency doesn’t usually last forever, but it’s a genuine concern for 18 months after braces or aligners.
2. Shifting Due to Aging
Then there’s another type of moving that is a slower, more gradual, and long-lasting process. This usually occurs due to “uprighting” movement of the front teeth on the lower jaw. This type of movement naturally occurs as we age, and it can lead to teeth crowding as the teeth move closer to the tongue.
What is a Retainer?
You probably already know that a retainer is a metal or plastic appliance that prevents your teeth from moving out of place. Your dentist or orthodontist will give you one when your orthodontic treatment is complete. We call them retainers because they “retain” the teeth in their new position.
Your Utah family dentist will create an orthodontic treatment plan that includes what type of retainer you’ll wear, how long you should wear it, and some simple cleaning and care instructions. There are different types of retainers, most are removable, but some are permanently fixed behind the teeth.
All retainers have the same end goal of keeping your teeth straight, but they may accomplish it in different ways.
The Two Most Popular Types of Retainers
The two most popular retainers on the market are:
This type of retainer consists of an acrylic piece that lays against the top of your mouth and a wire that fits around the inside of the teeth to keep them in place.
This type of retainer closely resembles Invisalign aligners. It fits over your teeth and is transparent. Essix retainers aren’t quite as noticeable as Hawley retainers.
How Long Should I Wear My Retainers?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer about length of retainer wearing. Some factors determine the duration of your retainer wearing. After you get your braces off, your dentist or orthodontist will usually recommend you wear your retainer night and day for the first three to six months post treatment. You can take it off to brush your teeth and eat, but it’s crucial to put it right back in afterward. The retainer will be most effective if it stays on at all times for the first few months.
After a period of time, your teeth will stabilize and get comfortable in their new position. At that point, you should only need to wear your retainer at night. We recommend you wear it at night for at least 1-3 years to prevent relapse. You can certainly wear it longer to be safe. After you stop wearing it, there’s a chance your teeth may shift a bit but probably not as much as right after getting your braces or aligners removed.
Orthodontic treatment such as braces or clear aligners will fix crooked teeth, and retainers will ensure they stay straight. You or your parents put a lot of money and time into retrieving those jaw-dropping pearly whites, and you want to care for and maintain them.
Be diligent at wearing your retainers for at least 18 months after your treatment. To be on the safe side, we recommend three years, or even forever. And when your retainer gets too old, breaks, or needs a serious upgrade, make an appointment with your Utah dentist to get a new one. All they have to do is take a mold of your teeth. Then they can either create a retainer in-house or send the mold to a lab to have them do it.
You may also need a new one if your retainer doesn’t fit. If it is just slightly ill-fitting, you may be able to get it on, allowing your teeth to return to the desired position. If it won’t go on, don’t try too hard to jam it on and force it. That can cause damage to your teeth. It’s best to get a new one. A retainer is much more affordable than braces or clear aligners and the small investment will be worth it to ensure your teeth remain straight.