Retainers keep your newly straightened teeth aligned for the long-term. Without retainers, your teeth will begin to shift and could become crooked again. There are several types of retainers and orthodontist Robert Rudman will help you find the right one for you. To learn more, or to arrange a consultation at our Denver-area practice, please call Advanced Orthodontic Care at 303-331-0222.
Why You Wear a Retainer after Braces
Teeth are prone to "relapse," which means they want to shift and return to their former positions. Once your orthodontic treatment phase is complete, the retention phase is necessary to keep your teeth in their new, straight positions.
Retention protocols vary based on your specific case, but for most patients, Dr. Rudman will prescribe a constant use of the retainer for a certain period of weeks. During this time, you'll remove the retainers only to eat, and to brush and floss. This constant wear is essential when your braces first come off. The ligaments, bone and tissues surrounding your teeth will be adapting to the new alignment of your teeth. After this period of time, Dr. Rudman will likely recommend nightly wear of your retainer.
Can I Get a Retainer Instead of Braces?
Some people like the idea of closing a gap or straightening their teeth with a retainer, and skipping the braces altogether. While this is theoretically possible for the most minor, tiny adjustments, it would take several years or longer and could end up being ineffective. Retainers are designed to retain movement that has already happened, not to perform the movement itself.
Using a retainer to straighten teeth is generally not a good idea and not recommended by orthodontists committed to your best results. If you are averse to the idea of wearing braces and looking for an alternative, arrange a consultation with Dr. Rudman to learn more about those options. Invisalign® uses clear teeth trays to straighten teeth, while Incognito® braces are placed on the inner, tongue-facing surface of your teeth. Dr. Rudman can determine if you are a candidate for either of these. Even if you'd benefit most from traditional braces, clear brackets may be an option for a lower profile.
Dr. Rudman wants you to enjoy strong, aligned teeth and a beautiful smile. As such, he will recommend the range of treatments he knows will work best for you in the long run.
Do I Wear My Retainer for Life?
Lifetime nightly wear of your retainer will keep your teeth straight. Some people reduce their wear to 2-3 nights per week, which may be sufficient. Teeth continue to want to shift, years after your orthodontic treatment is complete. Retainers prevent them from doing so. If you were to stop wearing your retainer down the road, your teeth will eventually tilt, shift and could become crooked again.
Types of Retainers
There are three basic types:
Clear plastic retainers, which are also call Essix retainers. These trays are customized to your teeth using impressions of your bite after your braces come off. They are easily removed and re-inserted over your teeth.
Permanent/bonded retainers, which are a thin wire bonded to the back surface of the teeth. Also called a fixed retainer, these wires are most often placed on the back of the lower teeth. One of these retainers may also be placed behind the upper front teeth. Bonded retainers can be very important if the teeth were previously gapped, rotated or badly misaligned. The bonded wire ensures there will be constant retention on teeth at a high risk of relapse.
Hawley retainers, which consist of an acrylic base and wires that wrap around the teeth. The wires can be adjusted for various purposes. These retainers are a little less common than the two other types.
Dr. Rudman will recommend the retainer that will work best for you. Oftentimes, a bonded retainer combined with nightly wear of an Essix retainer is the most effective.
Long-Term Retainer Care and Maintenance
When you receive your retainer, our team will go over all the care instructions so you know what to do. Here are the main takeaways for removable retainers:
- Clean your retainer. When you remove your retainers in the morning, rinse them under luke-warm water before storing them. Don't use hot water because the temperature could potentially warp the plastic. To remove built up deposits, submerge your retainers in a denture cleaning solution once a week or so.
- Don't clean with toothpaste. The paste is abrasive and will scrape up the surface of the retainers at some point.
- Don't clean with bleach or any other harsh chemicals. Stick to water and denture solution.
- Store your retainer in its case. It's easy to lose track of these small, clear aligners. So be sure to put them in their case when you aren't wearing them.
- Store retainers away from pets. Dogs in particular tend to be attracted to the smell of retainers and have been known to chew them up or eat them. If you have dogs, keep retainers stored where they can't get to them.
Bonded retainers require the extra step of threaded floss. This floss has a stiff end that can be inserted beneath the wire, allowing you to floss between your teeth. It's important to floss beneath the bonded retainer, even though it requires a little extra effort.
Learn More about Retainers
Dr. Rudman and our team are happy to answer all of your questions about retainers, and what retainers can and cannot do. To learn more or to arrange a consultation at our Denver and Stapleton-area office, please call Advanced Orthodontic Care at 303-331-0222.