You did it – you made it through your orthodontic treatment.
You weighed up the pros and cons of braces and Invisalign, patiently waited as your teeth gradually realigned, and – now that you have a perfectly straight smile – it’s time to say goodbye to orthodontics forever, right?
Unfortunately, no – that’s a common misconception. Though your braces or aligners are gone, your retainer will take over to solidify the months or years of correction that made your teeth beautiful. If you wear this device as per your dentist’s advice, you can have great-looking teeth for life. (And if you don’t? Well, you’ll probably regret it.)
What Is A Retainer?
A retainer is a plastic or metal-based mold that you wear for a prescribed amount of time to keep your teeth from shifting after your braces come off. When your braces are first removed, your mouth’s ligaments are not fully stable. Your retainer will hold your teeth in place as these ligaments stabilize to hold the teeth on their own.
Retainers can look like Invisalign, or they can be made of plastic that is molded with metal wires. The latter version is more heavy-duty and expensive but will last longer than the clear plastic kind. Regardless of the kind of retainer you receive, you’ll need to replace it periodically to keep it in good working order.
Another type of retainer is a permanent retainer which is a thin metal wire bonded to the back of your teeth. This does not need to be removed and will stay in your mouth to hold your teeth in place.
How Does A Retainer Work?
Your retainer is designed to hold your teeth in place after the brackets and wires are removed. At first, your teeth will be adjusting to the new norm of not having constant pressure applied to them. Your dentist will advise you to wear your retainer either 24/7 or at night when your braces first come off, depending on your oral condition.
Then, the frequency will decrease as your teeth “set” into place. Retainers work as a “reminder” to your teeth to stay in place, transitioning you from full-time braces to part-time retainer wear. As your teeth firmly take their place, you’ll use your retainer less and less.
How Do I Take Care Of My Retainer?
Taking good care of your retainer will extend its life, saving you money by not having to replace it frequently. Here are three simple steps to keep it in good shape.
1. Keep It Clean
Just like with any dental prosthesis, retainers need to be properly cleaned every day. If you’re wearing your retainer all day long, you’ll need to take it out during meals and clean it after you eat. Use a soft-bristled brush to remove food particles from the intricate grooves in the retainer’s mold. Your retainer will also come with a special case and cleansing fluid. When you start wearing it less frequently, it’s a best practice to soak it in the fluid when it’s not in use. When in doubt about what to do, check with your dentist to find out what care methods are best for the retainer you’re using.
2. Keep It In Its Case When You’re Not Using It
It’s easy to accidentally leave your retainer in a place where small children or dogs can get to it, which can ultimately lead to your retainer’s demise. However, putting your valuable retainer in its protective case offers one line of defense from unpredictable elements. The same goes for when you’re eating out. When you remove your retainer to enjoy your meal, protect it in the case until you’re finished eating so it won’t get crushed in your pocket or purse.
3. Keep It Away From Extreme Temperatures And Dryness
If your retainer is constantly exposed to heat, freezing temperatures, or left out in the open to dry, it can warp or crack. If you find at any time that your retainer isn’t fitting the way it should after it has been damaged by these factors, you need to see your orthodontist to get a new retainer.
Overall, if you are mindful of caring for your retainer and follow your doctor’s advice, you should have a properly working retainer that can keep your teeth looking great for years to come.
How Long Do I Need To Wear My Retainer?
This all depends on what your orthodontist recommends. Some patients only need to wear their retainer for a season, but others need to wear theirs periodically for the rest of their life. The condition of your teeth and the extent to which they need to be corrected will determine the frequency and duration of your retainer use. However, it’s generally a good practice to use it at least once a week to prevent your teeth from moving, even after years of being braces-free.
Get Beautiful Teeth With Us!
To find out more about retainers and the other dental and orthodontic solutions that we offer in Los Angeles, contact us.