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What are Retainers? Why do I Need Them After Finishing my Orthodontic Treatment?

Traveling is no excuse to not take care of your teeth.

Dentist

Retainers are custom-made, removable dental appliances that help teeth maintain their new positions after orthodontic treatment is complete. Retainers are often recommended to be worn full time for the first six months, then only at night for another six months. After that, it’s typically recommended to wear retainers as needed – for example, when you eat something that could cause your teeth to move. Without retainers, there is a high chance that teeth will slowly return to their original positions. It is even possible to wear retainers when traveling

There are many different types of retainers, but they all have the same goal: to keep your teeth in their new position. Without a retainer, your teeth may start to move back to their original position.

The retainers come in three different types: fixed, removable, and clear. Depending on the type of retainer prescribed, it may be worn all day or just on nights and weekends. It’s important to wear your retainers as instructed by your orthodontist, in order to achieve the best results.

Post-treatment shifting

If your teeth have been moved into a different position after treatment, you can wear a clear, removable retainer over them to help keep your new alignment. If your teeth were moved back in the same position as they were before treatment, it is best to wear a fixed retainer. For example, if your teeth were moved forward and then back to their original position before treatment, then it would make sense to wear a fixed retainer all day and night. If your teeth were moved with the impression, then it would make sense to wear a removable retainer so they can be adjusted each time they move.

Types of retainers in more detail

As discussed earlier, there are three different types of retainers. They include:

Fixed retainers

Fixed retainers are custom made to tightly fit around your teeth for an entire day or night. They provide a strong hold that keeps the teeth from shifting back into their old position.

After-brace patients are typically recommended to wear a fixed retainer for at least six months after finishing treatment, although it varies from person to person and your orthodontist may recommend a shorter or longer period of time depending on your case.

Removable retainers

A removable retainer is a device that is designed to be worn at night only. It fits around your upper and lower teeth, but unlike the fixed retainer, it does not attach to your gums or jaw.

Retainers like this are not as strong as their fixed counterparts, so they do not prevent teeth from shifting back to their original position like a fixed retainer does. This means that your teeth may move back a small amount during the time you wear this type of retainer.

Clear retainers

A clear retainer is a one-piece device that looks like a plastic or acrylic cap and fits around the upper and lower teeth. It does not attach to your gums or jaw, so it’s not as strong as a fixed retainer. Like the removable retainer, this type of retainer is worn at night only and does not prevent teeth from shifting back to their original position while you are wearing it.

Your orthodontist can recommend which type of retainer would be best for your specific case when they finish your treatment plan.

Why retainers are deemed necessary

After orthodontic treatment is complete, there are certain things that might cause your teeth to shift back to their original position. Retainers can also help reduce the amount of discomfort that you might experience every time that you chew food. Many retainers have rubber or leather bands attached to them. These can be adjusted depending on how hard or soft you need them to be.

Most of the time, not wearing a retainer after treatment can lead to the following problems:

  • Unplanned tooth movement.
  • Missing or broken teeth.
  • Crowding of teeth.
  • Gum disease and tooth decay are often linked to loose teeth. 
  • Bad breath can also be a side effect of having untreated dental issues. 
  • A relapse of head and neck pain is possible if you have not properly taken care of your oral health.

To prevent these things from happening, retainers are custom-made after treatment is complete to hold your teeth in their new position. This allows your teeth to gradually start to move back into their original position and avoid any unwanted injury. To achieve the best results from your treatment, it is vital to take care of your oral health as much as possible while you are waiting on the healing process.

How to deal with ill-fitting retainers

If you do not wear your retainers as instructed by your orthodontist, your teeth may move away from the positions that were achieved during treatment. If a retainer does not fit properly, it can be recommended to have it adjusted.

Choosing a retainer

Most retainers are custom-made for every patient and adjust to fit the arch of each individual tooth. Some patients also prefer clear retainers because they like how they look in their mouths.

The material that is used to make the retainer may depend on the patient’s age. For example, patients will often choose a removable retainer if they are young and will not have to wear it for an extended period of time. They are also less expensive than fixed retainers. Fixed retainers are custom-made and even can be worn for several years after treatment ends.

What to do if your retainer no longer fits you

This may occur as a result of not wearing your retainers for some time, and the teeth may have shifted extensively, rendering the retainers not to fit. If this is the case, it is important to go to your orthodontist as soon as possible to get them adjusted and restored.

If your retainer no longer fits properly, you may be recommended to visit your orthodontist. The process of adjusting a retainer can take some time and include using various types of small hand tools. Your orthodontist may also suggest that you switch retainers if it no longer fits.

Adherence to treatment

Unlike braces, retainers do not require you to floss or brush your teeth. However, by following the instructions that are given by your orthodontist, you should be able to maintain your treatment until you are ready for them to come off.

Final note

Retainers are an important part of orthodontic treatment, even while traveling. They are used to keep your teeth in their new position after your braces are removed and help to prevent them from moving back to their original position. If you don’t wear your retainers, your teeth will likely move back to their original position. 

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