Why Retainers After Orthodontic Treatment Are So Important: Maintaining Your Perfect Smile

Congratulations! Your orthodontic treatment plan to create your new smile is complete. It’s a big day and you love the results. 

Your orthodontist introduced you to your retainer before you left the office at your latest appointment, complete with instructions on how to use it. But you thought you were through with your treatment. How important is this retainer, anyway?

This article will answer all your questions about retainers after braces or retainers after Invisalign treatment, including how important they are, the different kinds, and how long you will have to use one. The last thing you want is for your newly aligned teeth to start slipping back into their old positions. So, read on and learn why retainers after orthodontic treatment are so important and how to care for yours.

So Why Do You Have to Wear a Retainer After Orthodontic Treatment?

Even though your treatment plan for your orthodontic device is over, your teeth still need a bit of support to solidify in their new positions. That is why retainers are so important. Retainers perform the role of orthodontic retention, which is the same if you had traditional braces or Invisalign aligners.

Once your braces are removed or all your aligners have been used, it will still take some time for your teeth to stay in place. This is normal for patients of all ages. The retainer does just what its name implies; it holds or retains the teeth in place.

Without the retainer, the teeth can quickly move back to their misaligned positions, meaning a need braces or aligners all over again.

No one wants that to happen. Your orthodontist will customize your retainer to fit your new smile. At first, it will feel tight when you put it in your mouth, but that won’t last long. By following the orthodontist’s directions for wearing the retainer, your teeth will remain in their proper alignment and you’ll get to a point where the retainer will be used only occasionally. Your smile will be protected!

The Different Types of Retainers

There are different types of retainers and your orthodontist will recommend the one that is best for you. The two most common types are removable and fixed. Here are the differences between them:

Removable Retainers

This type of retainer is removed when you eat, when you brush and floss your teeth, and when you clean the retainer. This allows you to maintain a solid oral health routine, which is as important as ever while still providing the necessary support for your teeth.

Being able to remove the retainer when you eat means you can eat whatever you want. It’s important, though, to remember to put the retainer back in when you’re finished eating, when you’re done brushing and flossing, and after you’ve cleaned it. And don’t wrap it in a napkin or leave it on a table or counter! Many retainers are lost forever this way.

Fixed Retainers

Your orthodontist may decide you need a retainer that is bonded to the reverse side of your teeth. This is called a fixed retainer because it can only be removed by the orthodontist. 

It effectively keeps the teeth solidly in place, but the fixed retainer is harder to clean since you will be brushing and flossing around the retainer. You also must avoid foods that are hard, crunchy, or sticky. 

If you aren’t sure why your orthodontist chose one or the other type of retainer for you, discuss it with them. They want what is best for your new smile but also want you to be comfortable with your retainer.

How Long Must I Use a Retainer After Braces?

Good question! You have been looking forward to the day your braces are no longer needed, but now you find out you must use a retainer. The one thing you don’t want to happen, though, is for your teeth to move back into their old positions.

Listen carefully to your orthodontist about the specific timeline they prescribe for you and ask all the questions you have. But, here are some general facts to keep in mind regarding how long retainers are usually used: 

For Removable Retainers:

  • For the first three to six months after your braces are removed, you will need to wear your retainer up to 20 hours every day.
  • You only remove it to eat, clean it, and brush your teeth. 
  • After six months, most people only need the retainer two to three nights a week.
  • You will need to wear a retainer indefinitely and it will need to be replaced after a few years. Make sure to follow the instructions of your orthodontist when it comes to how often it will need to be replaced.

For Fixed Retainers:

  • Fixed retainers are bonded to the back of your teeth so they are invisible to others.
  • If you have a bonded retainer, you won’t be able to remove it yourself, so you will be wearing it all the time.
  • Your orthodontist will let you know exactly how long the retainer will be affixed to your teeth.

Regardless of which type of retainer you use, if you are having difficulty with it, meet with your orthodontist to find a solution.

Properly Caring For Your Retainer

It is important to include your retainer as part of your regular dental hygiene routine. Here are some tips on caring for it properly:

Clean It

You will clean a fixed retainer the same way you cleaned around your braces. Make sure to clean between the teeth and under the retainer to remove all bits of food. Use an interdental brush or a Waterpik.

For removable retainers, use a cleaner made for this use. Clean it thoroughly according to the instructions from your orthodontist or the cleaner you are using. Also, make sure to rinse the retainer every time you remove it and when you put it back in.

Once you are not wearing it most of the time, soak it in distilled water or a retainer cleaner whenever it’s not in your mouth. It is important not to let it dry out.

Store It In Its Case

Use the case every time you take the retainer out. It’s good to have two cases, one for home and one to have with you all the time. When you remove the retainer to eat, automatically put it in its case. Don’t wrap it in a napkin or lay it down on a table. It’s easy to forget it and then you will need to replace it.

Source: Invisalign

Retainers + Pets = Disaster!

One of the leading causes of damaged or lost retainers is pets. They love to play with them and/or chew on them, which is another reason the retainer should either be in your mouth or its case. 

Keep It Out of Hot Water

It may seem necessary that you wash the retainer in hot water, but this will result in the retainer shrinking or warping. Use tepid or cool water and a cleaner designed for retainers. This will ensure it is properly clean and sanitary, without risking damage to the retainer.

Make Sure to Protect That Beautiful Smile With Your Retainer

Once your braces are removed or your aligners have all been used, it is imperative to use your retainer to protect the straight, beautiful smile that you’ve already worked so hard for. Your orthodontist will instruct you on which kind of retainer they think is best and, as you can see, it’s important that you follow all instructions for its use.

The team here at Ashby Orthodontics is ready to help you protect all your hard work and investment with retainers after orthodontic treatment. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or want more information on retainers. Be assured that no question or concern is too small for our attention, so we look forward to assisting in any way we can.

Contact us whenever necessary and we will see you at your next appointment!