photo courtesy of AAO

photo courtesy of AAO

Now that your braces are off, your smile is beautiful and your teeth are straight. To keep your smile looking the same as it does now, you will have to wear a retainer. Retainers preserve and stabilize your results. Retainers are necessary to control or limit potential changes in tooth position. They are used after braces are removed to keep the teeth in their correct alignment while the surrounding gums, bone, and muscle adjust to the new positioning of your teeth. It takes up to a full year for the bone around your teeth to fully solidify. When your braces are removed, your teeth may feel a little loose and sensitive to cold. This is normal. Remember, your teeth were covered up for a while and now they are free!

Types of retainers

  • Traditional removable retainers usually have a metal wire that surrounds the front teeth and is attached to an acrylic arch that sits in the roof of the mouth. The metal wires can be adjusted to finish treatment and continue minor movement of the front teeth if necessary.
  • Aligner-style retainers, or Essix retainers, look similar to clear aligners and offer a more aesthetic alternative to wire retainers. This clear retainer fits over the entire arch of your teeth. It is produced from a mold of your newly aligned teeth.
  • Fixed retainers consist of a wire bonded behind the bottom and/or top teeth. Teeth with fixed retainers require more attention when eating, brushing and flossing. Patients with fixed retainers often must use floss threaders to pass dental floss through the small spaces between the retainer and the teeth.

Spring Aligners and Bite Plate Appliances

These appliances look similar to retainers and require the same care, but they are different because they can move your teeth. Spring aligners are used to move teeth into their desired position if there is minor movement necessary. This could be for minor orthodontic treatment or to re-align teeth if there was some orthodontic shifting due to not wearing retainers. To care for your Spring aligner appliances follow all the instructions above for Retainers. Once difference with these appliances is that they may make your teeth sore for the first few days of wear because they are moving your teeth. Continue wearing the appliance full time, as prescribed, and the initial discomfort will go away.