It’s been marked on your calendar for weeks: your braces are coming off! You’re done, right? Not so fast. Your teeth need a little extra help to make sure they don’t shift back to how they were before. That’s what retainers are for.
The American Association of Orthodontists offers a more formal definition for retainer: “A fixed or removable appliance worn after the braces are removed. A removable retainer attaches to your upper and/or lower teeth and holds them in their finished positions.”
Braces are the first step of your dental treatment; retainers are the second very important step. This phase of treatment is known as the retention phase because one of the goals is to help your teeth retain their new placement. There’s another goal: “to allow bone to rebuild after your teeth have moved.”
Those are important goals, and there’s only one way to meet them: wear your retainer. Wear it all the time, even when you don’t really feel like it. If you skip it completely or only wear it once in a while, your teeth will shift. If that happens, it will minimize the benefits of your braces. You may even need braces again to correct any shifting that took place. Avoid that hassle by wearing your retainer.
Eventually, after your teeth have made significant progress toward the goals of the retention phase, Dr. Wright will give you the green light to transition from full-time use to nighttime use. Don’t try to jump ahead of Dr. Wright on that decision, because it’s important to wait until the time is right.
It’s important to be yourself, and with modern technology, you can even make your retainer reflect your personal style. You can choose the color (with choices of solid, custom, glitter, or neon colors) and the design. What do you like? Choose your own look! Keep in mind that many of these designs and artwork choices are limited to upper appliances and retainers. In addition, some designs are not available for expanders, and lower retainers cannot have decals.
Take care of your retainer
Take your retainer out before you brush your teeth, and brush your retainer before you put it back in your mouth. Be careful where you put it when you eat. For example, if you put it on a napkin when you eat lunch, you may be going through the garbage to recover it later on. Choose a safe place so you don’t accidentally throw it away. Finally, if your retainer is damaged in any way, let Dr. Wright know as soon as possible. If your retainer is damaged, it cannot be as effective as it should be. A damaged retainer may even cause injury to your mouth, so do not delay in making Dr. Wright aware of it.
Your orthodontic treatment does not end when your braces come off. The retention phase is important, and you need to take it seriously. If you don’t wear your retainer, you’ll diminish the positive effects of having braces. Make the most of your orthodontic care by wearing your retainer.