Orthodontic treatment is one of the best things you can do to improve your smile aesthetics and oral health. But wearing braces or aligners is definitely a time commitment, and by the time this part of your treatment is complete, you’re probably ready to put orthodontic treatment in the past and just focus on flashing those pearly whites, right?
But wait! Now it’s time to talk about retainers, the second orthodontic appliance that helps ensure your teeth stay straight for a lifetime. Millions of people have orthodontic treatment each year in the United States, and every one of them will almost certainly need to wear a retainer once their treatment is complete. Why? Because retainers are important for stabilizing teeth after orthodontic treatment.
At Freedom Orthodontics in Cedar Park, Texas, Brendan D. Smith, DDS, MS, and our team provide custom-fit retainers for our patients to help them “lock in” their results. Here’s why wearing a retainer is so very important.
To understand how a retainer works, first you need to understand what happens when you’re wearing braces or aligners. To get your teeth into ideal alignment, each tooth needs to move — not just the top, visible parts of your tooth, but the whole tooth, all the way down to the root.
As each tooth root shifts, the bone surrounding the root reforms to hold the tooth steady and firm in its new position. Even after you’re done with your braces or aligners, the bone tissue is still forming around your tooth roots. At this stage of treatment, your retainer continues to provide stability for your teeth while the bone “hardens” around the roots so your teeth stay in their new positions.
For the first few months after braces or aligner treatment, you’ll wear your retainer all day and all night. After that, once your teeth are stabilized, you’ll wear it for several hours each day or overnight for several more months.
Many patients continue to wear their retainer overnight two or three times a week indefinitely to help maintain their beautiful smile.
Retainers are lightweight and custom-fit, so they’re very comfortable to wear. Still, it might be tempting to skip, especially if you’re not used to it yet. The problem with not wearing your retainer is that your teeth can shift over time as a result of your bite pattern, age, and other factors. If you don’t wear your retainer as prescribed, you might find your teeth aren’t as straight as they were right after you got your braces off, and that can be really disappointing.
Sometimes people skip wearing their retainer for a few months (or longer) and find that when they try to wear it again, the retainer doesn’t fit as well. That’s because your teeth have already begun to shift a bit out of their aligned positions.
In this case, you might still be able to wear your retainer — it will just feel more snug when you first begin to use it. Other times, you’ll need to schedule an office visit so we can determine if you need to have a new retainer made.
Bottom line: Wearing a retainer is part of your orthodontic treatment. If you skip wearing it or don’t wear it as prescribed, you can wind up undoing the results of your original treatment. And you certainly don’t want to do that.
To learn more about orthodontic treatment and how it can help you enjoy a more beautiful smile (and better oral health), call our office or request an appointment online today.