After wearing braces for several months or even years, you may be looking forward to the day when you don’t have to worry about ever putting something on your teeth again. However, there is another step after your orthodontist has decided you no longer need to wear braces. Rather than thinking of it as moving from braces to straight teeth for the rest of your life, which is definitely the ultimate goal, perhaps you should think of it as moving from the active phase to the retention phase.
The active phase is that phase where you are wearing braces or other orthodontic appliances to move your teeth into their proper place, as well as to correct the bite. The retention phase is the phase where all the new movement your teeth and mouth have endured is “retained.” That is, held in place for the duration. Hence, the word retainer.
The purpose of a retainer is to keep your teeth in their proper position after your braces treatment. By wearing a retainer, your gums and bone are given time to stabilize around the new position your teeth are in. The amount of time you need to wear a retainer may last a few months or more. You may have to wear a retainer all day when you first get it, but then wear it only at night once your teeth begin to stabilize.
Although most retainers look the same, and you have probably seen them several times in your life, all retainers are custom-made. Also, not everyone who wears a retainer necessarily wore braces prior to that. Retainers may also be required to close gaps in teeth that aren’t severe enough for braces to fix. Though this can take several years, many people find it preferable to wearing braces. Retainers are also used to correct a “tongue thrust,” when your tongue slips through the teeth as you speak. They are also used to help correct tooth grinding (bruxism), symptoms associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), or other problems with your jaw.
Dr. Rudman will go over how to care for your retainer, but there are several things to keep in mind:
- Clean your retainer every day. When we eat food particles are often left stuck in our mouths along with bacteria and plaque. It is important to clear your retainer of all these things on a daily basis. The way you clean your retainer depends on the type of retainer you have.
- Retainers are made of plastic and can crack. When you are not wearing your retainer, you must soak it to keep it moist. Plastic can warp if left in hot water or near a hot surface.
- Do not bend the wires by flipping the retainer around in your mouth.
- Do not lose your retainer. Because you will not be eating with your retainer in your mouth, always make sure you keep it secure. Searching through a trashcan for your retainer at lunch is not a good way to spend time.
If you live in the Downtown Denver or Stapleton, Colorado area and have questions about retainers, please contact Advanced Orthodontic Care for an initial consultation.