If you’re currently wearing braces or using Invisalign to straighten your teeth, then you probably can’t wait to see your fresh new smile. But, it’s important after the appliance comes off that you follow your orthodontist’s instructions, namely, you’ll be asked to wear a retainer. Retainers are an essential part of almost every orthodontic treatment you can imagine, and they will ensure that your beautiful smile will stay that way for a lifetime to come! Why are retainers so important, you ask? You’ll find out in today’s blog.
What is a Retainer?
A retainer is a small, clear plastic appliance that is worn after a braces or Invisalign treatment has been completed. Typically, one is needed for each row of teeth that has been moved. They help the newly shifted teeth stay in place, because otherwise, they would start to drift back into their original positions, and no one wants that!
Why are Retainers Necessary?
Every tooth in your mouth is attached to your gums and the surrounding structures by various fibers and ligaments that help keep them firmly in place. Over the course of an orthodontic treatment, these linkages are loosened by the forces applied by braces or Invisalign trays, enabling the teeth to shift. Once a treatment is over, the teeth can actually snap back to where they started unless they are stopped by a retainer. This is especially true for adult patients because the linkages are much stronger compared to those of children and teenagers.
How Long Will I Need to Wear a Retainer?
An orthodontist will usually recommend that a patient wear their retainer all the time for the first couple of months after treatment. This is because the bone surrounding the teeth will be relatively soft, making it easier for them to move out of position. Eventually, a patient will be able to just wear their retainer at night once the bone has hardened a bit. It is still possible for the teeth to shift many years after orthodontic treatment, so ideally, retainer usage should never really stop.
How To Take Care of a Retainer
Just like your teeth, your retainer will need to be cleaned regularly to keep it free of bacteria and food particles that could increase the risk of tooth decay. Fortunately, doing so takes less than a minute. A patient should rinse a retainer with lukewarm water after eating or drinking anything other than water, and they should also use a toothbrush and toothpaste to remove debris at the end of each day. It’s important to never wash or soak a retainer in very warm water, as this can cause the plastic to warp and change shape. And, if a retainer is ever lost or broken, a patient should contact their orthodontist to get a replacement right away.
In reality, most patients will end up wearing their retainers much longer than braces or Invisalign, making them an extremely important part of any orthodontic treatment. With their help, a patient will enjoy seeing a perfectly straight smile in the mirror for decades to come.
About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is an award-winning orthodontist in Powell and Elite Invisalign Provider. After a patient has completed treatment with him, he has them wear clear retainers that practically disappear when worn, meaning a patient is able to show off their new smile right away! To learn more about retainers and how to properly use/take care of them, feel free to give us a call any time.