Retainers… all your questions answered!!!!

Orthodontic Retainers, why are they needed? For everyone that completes orthodontic treatment, whether it be with traditional braces or Invisalign, retainers must be used. Your teeth have small fibers in them that want to pull your teeth back to the original location that they were in….in a nutshell, your teeth have memory! How much will they move back? Well, that is different for everyone. Just like your bite was a unique bite to start with, the amount of relapse, or movement, will vary as well. Some people are lucky, they only have a slight amount of shifting. Others are not so lucky and they see a significant amount of shifting.

Many parents and adults frequently ask, “Why are retainers needed?”. If you think about it, there isn’t one part of your body that hasn’t changed in the last 30 or 40 years….that includes your teeth. Our bodies are always in a state of change and teeth aren’t any different. Your teeth are not set in concrete, nor do we want them to be. Teeth move slightly when we chew or bite something hard. If they didn’t then all the forces that are transmitted to our teeth as we bite down would cause them to break. So for people that grind and clench their teeth, the fact that the teeth are able to move slightly actually protects their teeth from fracturing.

Frequently, I see people in their 30′s or 40′s to have orthodontic treatment for a second time because they discontinued wearing their retainers and the teeth shifted. Most of the time crowding is present and the teeth need to be re-aligned.

For most of our patients including children, teens and adults, we make removable retainers. This is either a traditional retainer that has the wire that goes across the front teeth, or a clear plastic retainer that is form fitted to the teeth. Both types have their benefits. The nice aspect of a traditional retainer is that I can move teeth with it, if necessary. If a tooth moves, I can put a bend in the wire and move it back. However, in most cases, I still prefer having the clear retainer. It’s clear! I find that teenagers, especially, like this type of retainer because others don’t see it and the compliance with retainer wear is much better. We can still move a tooth if it shifts with this type of a retainer, but the movements are more limited and minor.

There are instances when a fixed, or bonded, retainer is beneficial. For example, when we have a patient that had a very large gap between their upper front teeth or a patient that had severe crowding in the bottom teeth before treatment. In addition to the removable clear retainer, we may also place a bonded retainer on the back of the teeth to prevent the gap in between the two front teeth from reopening or the bottom teeth from shifting.

Lastly, my patient and/or their parents will always ask, “How long do I have to wear my retainers?”. The answer is simple “For as long as you want your teeth to stay straight?” Yes, retainers must be worn forever!!!! That doesn’t mean you have to wear them all the time forever. Remember, when we straighten your teeth we treat your malocclusion (bad bite), but we don’t cure it! So retainers must be worn to keep the teeth aligned properly. I recommend that my patients wear their retainers full time wear (take them out to eat, brush, and for sports) for a few weeks. Then I recommend about 12 hours per day (after dinner and sleeping hours) for the next 6-9 months. Then, for the next few years every night while sleeping only. Once your braces have been off for a few years, then you should be placing your retainers in about one to two nights per week just to keep the teeth straight.

If you have had orthodontic treatment with us at Bordentown Braces or Cream Ridge Orthodontics, make sure you continue with your retainer wear as we instructed you. If you ever have any questions about the fit of your retainers, or need your retainers checked, please do not hesitative to call us. If you have had orthodontic treatment in the past, and experienced some shifting due to discontinued retainer wear, call us to schedule an appointment so we can give you some options on how to realign your teeth and keep them straight!