Whether you just completed a round of Invisalign or had your braces removed, you’ve probably been given a retainer to keep your teeth in place. The frequency and length of time you wear it can depend on the type of retainer you have and your dentist’s recommendation, but many dentists recommend wearing a retainer indefinitely.
You may be thinking — “Wait, I thought I was done!” — and yes, you’ve done the difficult work of perfecting your smile through braces and successfully had them removed (congrats!), but don’t you want to keep it that way? Retainers can help protect your straightened smile (and also your investment). Let’s look at why retainers are important and see why wearing one long term is a good idea.
What Retainers Do
Retainers are devices that are custom made to fit your unique teeth to keep them from moving. Once you’ve had braces removed, your teeth are the most sensitive to moving and at risk of undoing all of the hard work and money you spent to straighten them. Retainers are essential to helping teeth adjust to their new position and setting them to ensure your orthodontic work lasts a lifetime.
Types of Retainers
Your dentist might recommend a certain type of retainer to use after you have your braces removed. Some retainers are permanent and others are temporary and removable. Your dentist may give you one or the other, or a combination of both.
Removable retainers are usually clear plastic retainers that are molded to fit your exact teeth shape, or made using wires and resin. These types of retainers are good at holding teeth in place when they’re worn regularly and are comfortable to wear and remove. Make sure to brush them as often as you do your teeth to keep them clean and fresh. The downside of removable retainers is that they can be easily misplaced. Be careful to keep your retainers in a safe place when not in your mouth.
Permanent retainers are usually bonded on inside of your bottom teeth. They’re very effective at keeping teeth in place and are inconspicuous. The advantage of a permanent bonded retainer is that you don’t have to take it out or worry about losing it because it’s attached to you all the time. If you wear a permanent retainer, you’ll need to be careful to brush and floss around it completely as plaque can start to build up in those hard-to-reach places. Your dentist can provide you with equipment like flossing needles to get under any wires and around brackets.
Combination of Retainers
Some people use a combination of retainer options, for example, a clear removable retainer for the top teeth and a permanent retainer for the lower ones. This can help keep more control over teeth that have a greater tendency to move around. If you have specific questions about what retainer is best for you, talk to your dentist about all of your options.
How Long Do I Have to Wear My Retainer, Really?
Ideally, dentists would prefer you wear a retainer all the time, indefinitely. Your teeth would stay perfectly in position and your straightened smile would be preserved. However, they understand that constant retainer use isn’t convenient or probable for most patients, especially young patients.
Dentists say you should try to wear your retainer as often as possible for the first 6-9 months after getting braces off. During this time, your teeth are the most sensitive and susceptible to moving. Once they’ve settled in their new places, your teeth won’t move as readily and you can start to decrease how often you wear your retainer. Many adults commit to wearing a removable retainer just overnight to maintain their orthodontic work.
Once your teeth have settled and are cleared by your dentist, how often you wear your retainer is really up to you. Maintaining your smile depends on how willing you are to keep up with wearing your retainer. To minimize the risk of undoing the work braces have done, you should try to wear your retainer as regularly as you can — at least a few times a week.
… But, Why?
As you get older, your teeth continue to move. The retainer is vital to keeping them where you want them, or they’ll start to migrate back to their original state, a process known as relapsing. As long as you wear your retainer regularly, the teeth won’t be able to move.
If you only put your retainer in every other week or once a month it may be uncomfortable because your teeth will have to readjust to the shape. Or, if you wait too long, it won’t fit at all and you’ll have to go back into the dentist to get impressions for a new one — which is not a particularly fun experience for anyone and something you’ll want to do as infrequently as possible.
Wearing your retainer regularly will ensure the fit is easy and comfortable and will preserve the expensive and time-consuming work you went through with braces. Eventually, retainers will wear out and need to be replaced, so talk to your dentist if your retainer looks or feels like it’s aging.
Forgot to wear your retainer and now it doesn’t fit? Or maybe your old retainer is looking a little worse for wear? Come on into Mogren Dental. We can help you get a new retainer that fits your teeth perfectly and keeps your smile straight.