Why are retainers essential to orthodontic treatment?

dental braces Las ColinasYou spend years of your life and thousands of dollars to achieve a smile makeover by wearing dental braces. You need to follow the recommendations of your dentist to maintain that beautiful smile; and one of those rules includes wearing your retainer.

Retainer by definition is a device or structure that holds something in place. This is the perfect description of what your orthodontic retainer is designed to do. Once you have achieved a correction to your malocclusion, you want to keep it in place. Your teeth will eventually form a memory for their new location, but it can take many months for that to occur. In an effort to prevent teeth from drifting back to the old placement, wearing a retainer is essential.

The retainer itself can be made up of a clear plastic making it less intrusive. But some retainers consist of a metal wire that frames the front of teeth. Whatever material or style of retainer issued by your dentist, it is usually prescribed to be worn 24/7 for the first six months or so. Some patients may be encouraged to wear it longer. Following the initial period, the retainer may be worn during the night only.

Many retainers are removable which means you can take them out for meals and snacks; however they should be replaced immediately. For patients where compliance is a concern, there are fixed retainers that are cemented in place.

During orthodontic treatment, your teeth were gently and slowly shifted. In order for the muscles and bones to follow suit and form a “memory” of their new location, this can require many more months of wearing your retainer. During this retention phase, failure to wear the apparatus as prescribed can result in teeth drifting back to their former location.

If you have not worn your retainer for a few weeks and place it in, if it feels tight or ill-fitting, this is a sign that you have not worn it long enough. One solution is to begin wearing it non-stop again for an extended period.

Keeping your retainer clean is important. Plaque and bacteria can build on it just like your teeth. Odors can accumulate leading to bad breath. Our dental team will advise the best way to clean your retainer; follow directions carefully as you may need to wear it indefinitely.