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The Importance of Wearing Retainers After Braces – What You Need to Know

Posted on October 15, 2019

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Whew! You’ve finally made it through the braces. Congratulations!

Now all you have to worry about is daily brushing and flossing, right?

Not quite. While that’s one of the most important things you can do to protect your overall dental health, there’s still something more you need to do.

What’s that? You need to wear your retainer.

This is something that so many people either forget to do or don’t want to do.

We get it – all the major shifting work is done. You have a beautiful, straight smile. Something that everyone who has ever been in braces or orthodontic appliances looks forward to is finally being out of them.

But it’s really important that patients wear their retainers after braces. It is the best way to protect your orthodontic investment.

clear aligners up close

What Is an Orthodontic Retainer? Why Is It Necessary?

A retainer is an orthodontic device that retains the new position of your teeth once you’re out of braces.

It’s made by taking an impression of your teeth. This impression is used to make a model of your newly straightened bite.

From this model, we fabricate the orthodontic retainer using acrylic. Sometimes, we’ll add a wire to the retainer for increased support.

We like to give our patients some options when it comes to the design of their retainer. We can make them in various colors, or we can simply make them clear – whatever you prefer.

Depending on the patient’s needs, we can make a permanent/fixed retainer or a removable retainer. The great thing about a permanent retainer is that you never have to worry about misplacing it or accidentally throwing it away.

You might still be wondering, though: Why do I need a retainer in the first place? Won’t the teeth just stay in place after they’ve been repositioned?

Unfortunately, no, the teeth won’t stay where we move them.

Our teeth like to shift back into their original position. The highest likelihood of movement is during the first six to 12 months after the braces are removed.

The bones, tendons, muscles, and gums need time to adapt to this new position. This is especially true of children and adolescents. If your child has just finished ortho treatment, make sure they wear their retainer regularly.

As they continue to grow, their jaw bones grow, too. This growth can cause the teeth to shift even faster, which means that even a little time spent without their retainer can lead to some major shifting.

Even as we age, though, the teeth will continue to shift. They tend to move forward, which causes crowding in the front. But the teeth can move forward, backward, and upward.

Though adult teeth won’t shift quite as fast as a child’s, there are things we can do that can cause our teeth to shift faster than average. These include:

  • Clenching and grinding, particularly at night when we do it unencumbered for hours
  • Biting our nails
  • Smoking
  • Using our teeth as tools (beyond their natural use as a way to chew food)

clear aligners in case

Retainers After Braces: How Long Do You Have to Wear a Retainer?

Even years after a person has been out of ortho, they can experience teeth shifting.

That means that wearing retainers after braces is a lifelong commitment. You don’t necessarily have to wear an orthodontic retainer 24/7/365. At first, you’ll have to wear them all day, except when eating or going through your dental hygiene routine.

After a period of time, you’ll probably be able to wear your retainers only at night. But that isn’t always the case. Because of a person’s anatomy, they might experience more shifting than normal. In these cases, wearing an orthodontic retainer all the time is their best option.

An article on AskTheDentist.com by Dr. Burhenne on the topic of retainers explains how we all need to answer the question “how long do you have to wear a retainer.”

He says that the real question is: “How long do you want to wear your retainers?”

You might be thinking, “But wait a second. I thought you said it wasn’t a choice. I thought you just said I have to wear my retainer.”

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, wearing a retainer is a choice. You just have to think about how long you want your teeth to stay straight and in proper alignment.

If your answer is forever, then you’ll likely need to commit to wearing  your orthodontic retainer for that amount of time.

The only way to control what’s known as the mesial drift (the movement of the teeth toward your midline, or the space that divides the left teeth from the right teeth) is to retain the teeth in their current position.

woman putting in clear aligners

Excellent Long-Term Ortho Results: Lewis Braces Has Your Best Interests at Heart

We totally understand the excitement our patients feel once they’re out of braces. Even our patients who went through the ortho process wearing clear aligners are excited that they don’t have to wear them any longer.

But wearing a retainer is the best way to protect your investment. You’ve spent a lot of time and money to get your gorgeous, straight smile. Wearing a retainer will help you keep your teeth in proper alignment not only today, but way down the road.

At Lewis Braces, we want you to enjoy your smile for years to come. And we know that one of the best ways to do that – besides daily home care practices and regular dental visits – is to wear your retainer.

Wearing your orthodontic retainer every day will help ensure that you don’t need to go through the ortho process again down the road. That means you’re able to save yourself a lot of time and money, and that can give you some definite peace of mind.

Do you have questions about your retainer? If you have questions about how to care for your retainer or if you need a new one because yours is lost or damaged – contact Lewis Orthodontics today! We look forward to answering your questions and taking care of your orthodontic needs.

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