Retainers (not to be confused with braces or invisalign) work to keep your teeth straight after getting your braces removed.
They’re important because retainers hold the new positions of your teeth and stop them from shifting back. So, when you wear retainers, you give your teeth time to settle down and let the surrounding tissues and bone adjust properly. This is super crucial because it helps prevent any unwanted relapse (such as mesial drift) and keeps your smile looking awesome. Retainers also provide support to the bone and soft tissues in your mouth, and if needed, they can even help make small adjustments to your bite.
The time you are required to wear your retainer depends on a variety of factors including the type of retainer you have, how long you have braces or aligners on for, and the severity of your teeth before your orthodontic treatment.
There are two main types of removable retainers, clear retainers or wire removable retainers.
Clear plastic retainers, also known as clear aligner retainers (not to be confused with invisalign treatment), are frequently used after orthodontic treatment to maintain the achieved results. These retainers are made of thin, transparent plastic that is custom-made to fit your teeth.
One of the main advantages of clear plastic retainers is that they are virtually invisible, allowing your natural teeth to show through.
A clear plastic retainer works by applying passive pressure to keep your teeth in their corrected positions. They serve a similar purpose to the aligners used during orthodontic treatment, but they are used for maintaining your smile instead. By wearing them regularly, you can help prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original positions.
A wire removable retainer is a type of retainer that consists of a thin metal wire attached to a custom-made acrylic base.
The wire in a removable retainer is typically made of stainless steel or another durable material. It is shaped to fit snugly against the surface of your teeth, while the acrylic base provides stability and support.
By wearing the retainer as instructed by your orthodontist, the wire exerts passive or gentle pressure on the teeth to keep them in their corrected positions. This helps prevent any undesirable shifting or relapse.
A fixed retainer, also known as a bonded or permanent retainer, is a type of retainer that is attached to the back surfaces of your teeth. Unlike removable retainers, fixed retainers are not meant to be taken out by the wearer.
A fixed retainer consists of a thin wire that is custom-fitted and bonded to the teeth using dental adhesive. The bonded retainer wire is usually made of stainless steel or other flexible wire material. It is carefully placed and secured to the teeth, typically on the lingual (tongue-facing) side of the upper or lower front teeth.
The primary purpose of a fixed retainer is to maintain the alignment of your teeth after orthodontic treatment. By keeping the wire permanently affixed to the teeth, it provides continuous gentle pressure, preventing them from shifting back to their previous positions. Fixed retainers are particularly useful for preventing relapse in cases where there is a high risk of teeth shifting.
The duration for wearing orthodontic retainers can vary based on your specific orthodontic treatment and the recommendation of your orthodontist. It’s important to follow their guidance for the best results. Typically, there are two main phases of retainer wear:
After your braces or orthodontic treatment is completed, your orthodontist may initially advise you to wear your retainers full-time, which means you start wearing them day and night. This phase usually lasts for a period of time, allowing your teeth to stabilise in their new positions.
After the full-time wear phase, your orthodontist may instruct you to continue wearing retainers only at night while you sleep. This phase is known as the retention phase and is crucial for maintaining the alignment achieved through orthodontic treatment. The retention phase can last for an extended period, and in some cases, orthodontists may recommend wearing the retainers nightly or a few nights a week indefinitely to ensure long-term stability.
It’s important to remember that each person’s orthodontic case is unique, and the duration of retainer wear may differ based on various factors. Regular follow-up appointments with your orthodontist will allow them to assess your progress and provide specific recommendations regarding the duration and frequency of retainer wear.