Why Retainers Are Important After Braces

It can be an exciting time when it is finally time to have your braces removed. But your journey may not stop there. Your orthodontist may suggest that you wear retainers after your braces have been removed, and they’ll often be very adamant about it. Retainers are an important part in keeping your teeth straight after braces.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is a small, custom-fit device that reinforces the new position of your teeth after your braces are removed. 

There are a few different options when it comes to dental retainers which can have different advantages depending on your lifestyle.

The types of retainer options

There are two main types of retainers that are available to you; fixed and removable.

Fixed retainers

Fixed retainers are retainers that cannot be removed by the patient and are permanently fixed on the back of the teeth.

They’re often made from wires that fit behind the teeth and are bonded in place.

Bonded retainers

Since these are fixed and permanent, you don’t need to worry about having to remove them when eating or brushing your teeth.

This can help take your mind off the use of the retainer and the other benefit is that the wires aren’t visible, meaning that you don’t need to worry about it looking similar to your braces.

Removable retainers

The other type is a traditional removable retainer.

These retainers are made from a special plastic and are made from a mold taken from your teeth. They are designed to be a snug fit and will keep your teeth exactly where they need to be.

These retainers that covers all of your teeth which is easy to remove and wear, but care must be taken to ensure that you’re remembering to wear them every night or else their effects will not be noticeable and your teeth will slowly become misaligned again.

Removable retainers

Regardless of the type of retainer you use, it’s important to pay close attention to the instructions your orthodontist has given you on when to wear the removable retainers and how to look after your permanent retainer.

Sticking to a routine is vital to ensure that your teeth do not become misaligned over time.

Focus your oral hygiene routine to get around the retainers that you’re using.

This may involve a different type of mouthwash or simply paying more attention to cleaning your teeth and even your removable retainer with your toothbrush.

It’s just as important to keep your retainer clean as it is the rest of your teeth.

Why should you wear a retainer after braces?

To put it simply, the purpose of a retainer is to ensure that the great results you’ve achieved from your braces treatment don’t slowly degrade over time.

The purpose of braces is to physically pull or push on your teeth to ensure that they’re properly aligned.

This requires a thorough examination before the braces are worn to ensure that the correct force at the right angle and location will be applied to your teeth.

“Fully inclusive orthodontic treatment will include retainers and review appointments after your braces have been remove which will ensure a seamless transition from braces to retainers.”

This ensures proper alignment and that the braces are being effective.

Teeth are held in place by bone and ligaments and moving these can be more difficult than it sounds, hence the importance of the mechanical forces on your teeth from braces.

This is what causes the discomfort that sometimes comes with having braces applied to your teeth when you first start treatment.

They’re literally pulling or pushing your teeth into place!

However, once the braces have done their job, there’s a chance that they will slowly drift out of alignment again because the bone and ligaments have a memory and may try to return to their original position.

Young man with braces

This is because the position of your teeth hasn’t stabilised because your orthodontic treatment has been causing your teeth to move the whole time, so the teeth have not yet had a chance to settle into their new position.

This is where the use of a retainer can be vital for preserving the position of your teeth and stabilising the great results that have been provided by your orthodontist and the braces.

Without a retainer, your teeth will slowly return to their original positions and the hard work you put in with the wearing the braces may be lost.

This is why it’s important to wear retainers after braces.

They help to keep your teeth aligned even after the braces are removed so that the great results become permanent, not temporary.

What happens if you don’t wear your retainer?

So what exactly are the consequences of not wearing your retainer once your orthodontic treatment ends?

Well as discussed above there’s a risk that your teeth will start to revert to their original position.

That means you might actually need to get braces a second time in order to restore their proper alignment.

As you can imagine that would be an extremely costly mistake to make!

A study of 1,200 orthodontic patients found that 19% of people were not wearing their (removable) retainers between 19-24 months after treatment.

That means about 1 in 5 patients would be at risk of slowly losing the rewards of all their hard work during treatment.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, this article has shown that retainers are important after you’ve worn braces.

Braces require a big effort from the patient, but all of that effort could disappear if you don’t wear your retainers correctly afterward your orthodontic treatment has been completed.

Your orthodontist will be able to recommend the ideal retainer solution for your needs at the time of your initial orthodontic appointment and you will be well aware of what to expect before your braces are removed.

Rest assured that retainers play a vital role in keeping your beautiful smile after orthodontic treatment has been completed.

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