At Balanced Advanced Orthodontics, we pride ourselves on giving patients an experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Even still, we are completely aware that the day you are most excited about is finishing orthodontic care and seeing the smile of your dreams in the mirror! Our team is just as enthusiastic as you are!
To help you maintain that new look, you will be given a retainer. While retainers get a negative reputation for being the “debbie downer” after you finish treatment, they are vital to your orthodontic journey! Let’s look at what they do for you to help get you excited about them!
Active Treatment Versus Retention.
To fully appreciate the importance of a retainer, you first need to understand the active treatment and retention phases of orthodontic care.
Active treatment is when your alignment is actively being adjusted. For example, when you wear braces or clear aligners, slight pressure is applied to your teeth or jaw to change their positions. That pressure softens the ligaments and bone in the mouth to allow teeth movement. When you and your orthodontist are satisfied with the new locations of the teeth and jaw, that pressure is relieved by removing the braces or clear aligners to prevent any further progression. This is the conclusion of active treatment.
The next phase in your orthodontic journey is the retention phase. Retention is the process of keeping the teeth in their new homes. Unfortunately, your bones and ligaments don’t instantly resolidify when we complete active treatment — though it would be pretty amazing if it did! Your mouth needs a little more time to stabilize. To help, this is when Dr. Hernandez, Dr. Rios, or Dr. Urrego-Torres will issue you a retainer.
What is a retainer?
Because those bones and ligaments are still soft and squishy, there’s still an opportunity for teeth movement. Teeth typically don’t know why we went through all that trouble to move them and believe they will try to return (also known as regress) to their original locations. That’s where the retainer comes in.
Retainers are orthodontic appliances designed to retain the teeth in place! There are a few different kinds of retainers, and which one is best depends on your unique situation. Your care provider at Balanced Advanced Orthodontics will help you identify the right one.
Fixed retainers are made of metal and can only be removed by an orthodontic professional. This type is bonded or glued to the back of the teeth for a discreet appearance. Patients with fixed retainers don’t have to worry about remembering to wear them but might have dietary restrictions and a slightly different oral hygiene routine than those with a removable retainer.
Removable retainers can come in two different styles. The Hawley retainer is likely what most people think of when they think of an orthodontic retainer. It has an acrylic base with a metal wire on the front of the teeth. The Essix retainer is transparent and looks almost identical to a clear aligner.
The patient can and should remove these retainers for eating, cleaning, and oral hygiene. However, because they are removable, users are responsible for wearing the appliances as directed.
What happens if I don’t wear my removable retainer?
While the exact direction will vary from patient to patient, more than likely, you will need to wear your removable retainer for twenty-two hours a day at first, and then your orthodontist will slowly taper that time down.
Neglecting or forgetting to wear your removable retainer, especially during the first few months of retention, gives the teeth the space and freedom they need to regress. We know it might have felt like it took forever to get the teeth to shift into their new positions, but it only takes as little as one day for teeth to become noticeably displaced again!
You put in a lot of hard work during your orthodontic journey — you might have suffered from discomfort, food cravings, or self-consciousness, and you cleaned/wore your appliances as directed — and you don’t want all that work to be for naught! If you don’t take retention seriously, your teeth could shift enough to warrant a restart active of treatment again!
How long will I need retainers?
Teeth can shift at any time in life for any number of reasons, so it is improbable that there will be a time when you do not need your retainer at all. On a positive note, the appliances are built to last if properly taken care of and are relatively low maintenance! Your provider will supply you with care instructions. Each style and type requires a different routine, so ask your orthodontist if you have any questions about retainer care.
Have more questions? Balanced Advanced Orthodontics has the answers!
Transitioning from active treatment to retention can be confusing or tricky for a patient of any age. Balanced Advanced Orthodontics wants it to be a pleasant and easy experience for you! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our skilled and dedicated staff at any of our three locations for assistance! Whether you need your first retainer or a replacement or have questions about the retainers or their care, we are always happy to help!
We look forward to helping you preserve your alignment!