By the time the braces are taken off, the dentist will recommend a retainer for the patient to wear to keep the patient’s new tooth alignment.
If someone you know had braces, you probably know that retainer is a necessary step of the treatment process.
But do you even know what a retainer is and what their function is? Is a retainer something worn for a short period of time, or must it be worn for life?
We have the answers to your questions.
What exactly is a retainer?
Retainers are dental appliances custom-fit to a patient’s mouth after wearing braces. These dental devices feature the impression of the patient’s teeth after treatment. Therefore, when a retainer is in use, it forces the teeth back into its post-treatment alignment.
As some don’t realize, the teeth are constantly shifting little by little. For that reason, the teeth have a high chance of heading toward misalignment again without the use of a retainer.
In the event that orthodontic treatment is minimal, your orthodontist may recommend a to resolve the alignment issue. Thus, you may not even require wearing braces if lucky. In turn, this could safe significant dental costs and speed up the treatment process.
Interestingly, there are different types of retainers. Retainers can be removable or permanent depending on the needs of the patient. Let’s talk more about this in the next section.
What types of retainers exist?
The type types of retainers include the Hawley retainer, the clear aligner retainer, and the fixed bonded retainer.
The Hawley retainer is composed of a metal wire attached to acrylic that holds the teeth in position. This is the most common type of retainer. You can see what this retainer looks like in the image in the top right-hand corner of this article.
The clear aligner type of retainer is a thin, transparent plastic tray that contains no wires. Thus, nobody will know you are wearing a retainer. A drawback is, clear aligners are less durable than Hawley retainers. However, many enjoy clear aligners for aesthetic purposes.
Lastly, the fixed bonded retainer is a wire glued to the back of the front lower teeth. In turn, this retainer is not visible to an outsider. As a downside, these retainers aren’t removable without professional dental help. However, one will never have to worry about remembering to wear their retainer as it’s always in their mouth.
How do I care for a retainer?
It is crucial to clean the retainer regularly to alleviate plaque buildup that could potentially trigger oral health problems. If your retainer is removable, sterilize your retainer daily in a denture solution to kill the bacteria. Additionally, you may need a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to lightly scrub excess debris from your retainer.
After cleaning a removable retainer, storing it in its box is critical. Remember, retainers can break or get lost easily!
Generally, it’s important to stick to the complete orthodontic regimen for best results. If your retainer is not removable, your dental professional will have specific care and maintenance guidelines. Always double check with a dentist or orthodontist if you are not sure how to correctly care for your retainer.
How long do I have to wear a retainer?
Dentists suggest after the braces are removed to wear retainer 24 hours a day for a minimum of three to six months. Retainers must be removed when consuming food, brushing the teeth or cleaning the retainer.
After that time period, wearing them only at night for a year is necessary. Some dentists advise their patients to wear a retainer for as long as they wore their orthodontic treatment. Others recommend wearing a retainer a few nights each week for life.
Ultimately, treatment and post-wear care depend on the orthodontist’s decision.