The big day comes and you get your braces off! Your smile is beautiful. Your bite is perfect. What happens next?
You obviously want your smile to remain gorgeous, and that is where orthodontic retainers come into play. Dental retainers maintain the bite relationship and prevent any shifting of your teeth. In our Westport and Norwalk orthodontic offices, we use a variety of retainers to preserve your orthodontic treatment result.
What types of retainers are there?
Orthodontic retainers are generally divided into two categories: (1) removable retainers and (2) fixed retainers. Removable retainers can be easily removed by the patient. They are often called “in-and-out retainers” because the patient is responsible for taking the retainers in and out.
Fixed retainers are bonded to the teeth. The patient does not take a fixed retainer in and out, because it is fixed (bonded) to the teeth. Fixed retainers are placed on the inside surface of the teeth, on the tongue side, so they are nearly invisible.
What types of removable retainers are there?
Orthodontists use a wide variety of removable retainers. In our practice in Norwalk and Westport, we prefer to use a clear, invisible removable retainer called an Essix retainer.
Our patients love these clear Essix retainers, since they are extremely aesthetic. People can go to school or walk around Fairfield County, and friends will not even notice the retainer.
In addition, clear Essix retainers are very comfortable, because they are adapted snugly to the teeth. Most importantly, Essix retainers are amazing for preventing any dental movement, and holding your smile and bite perfectly.
Another common type of removable retainer looks like the ones you often see on TV, with a metal bar crossing the upper front teeth. This type of removable retainer consists of a processed acrylic that rests against the palate and a metal bar on the front of the teeth.
In our practice, these retainers are sometimes used when a patient has a combination of baby teeth and adult teeth. During this mixed stage of dental development, baby teeth become loose and fall out, and adult teeth come into place.
Adult teeth are a different shape from the baby teeth they replace. As a result, the retainer often needs to be adjusted to accommodate the adult teeth. This type of removable retainer is easily adjustable and very durable, which makes it the proper choice in this stage of dental development.
Do you still see the orthodontist while wearing dental retainers?
Yes, of course! We want to ensure you are wearing the retainers well and your teeth remain properly aligned. In our orthodontic practice, we like to see patients for two years after the completion of orthodontic treatment. We ask you to bring your retainers to every visit for us to check.
Appointments will be less frequent than during active orthodontic treatment. Also, at these retainer appointments, we will gradually reduce the required amount of wear.
How much should I wear my orthodontic retainers?
Starting on the day your braces are taken off, we will ask you to wear your retainers full time. They should be worn all the time, except when you’re eating, brushing your teeth, or wearing a sports mouthguard. In our Norwalk and Westport offices, our orthodontists will let you know when you are ready to reduce the number of hours per day.
Typically, we continue full-time wear for six months after the completion of orthodontics. After six months, we recommend wearing retainers after dinner to the next morning, which totals ten to 12 hours per day. Later in the retention phase, we recommend further reducing wear to just during sleep.
Typically two years after completing orthodontics, patients can even reduce wear to every other night. However, if the retainers feel tight, then the patient should increase wear back to every night to avoid undesirable tooth movement.
Rules of Wearing Retainers
- Follow your orthodontist’s recommendations concerning how much you should wear them.
- Keep them away from dogs. Dogs will eat them!
- Do not put retainers on a cafeteria tray, because they tend to get thrown away.
- Do not microwave retainers.
- Do not boil orthodontic retainers.
- When the retainers are not in your mouth, they should be in your retainer case.
- Do not put dental retainers in a paper towel or napkin, because they tend to be thrown away.
How do you keep the retainer clean?
Various methods can be used to clean retainers. In our office, we recommend cleaning towelettes called Cleanse. Freshen. Go. (www.cleansefreshengo.com). Our patients really like these towelettes, because they both clean the retainers and smell great. They can be ordered through the company’s website or Amazon.
Other people like to use denture cleaner, which also works well, especially if used relatively frequently. We tend not to recommend using a toothbrush to clean retainers; a toothbrush (especially with toothpaste) can be rougher on retainers than the towelettes.