What happens if I stop wearing my retainers?
Oct 2, 2016
This is a commonly asked question as patients are overjoyed when braces are removed at the end of their treatment plan. So why do I have to wear a retainer right after?
Many individuals underestimate the importance of wearing retainers after orthodontic treatment, unaware of the potential consequences that can arise from neglecting them.
Importance of Wearing Retainers after Orthodontic Treatment
After months or even years of wearing braces, it can be tempting to toss your retainers aside and enjoy the newfound freedom of a straight smile.
However, this is a crucial mistake that can lead to a host of problems down the line. Retainers play a vital role in maintaining the alignment of your teeth after orthodontic treatment.
While braces work to move your teeth into the desired position, retainers help to keep them in place, allowing the surrounding tissues and bone to stabilise.
Without the regular use of retainers, the teeth can gradually shift back to their original positions, undoing all the progress made during orthodontic treatment.
How Retainers Work
To understand the importance of retainers, it’s essential to understand how they work to maintain teeth alignment. Once your braces are removed, your teeth are susceptible to movement as the surrounding tissues and bone adjust to the new positions.
Retainers are custom-made devices that are designed to hold your teeth in their desired alignment. They are typically made of a combination of plastic and wire, and they can be removable or fixed. By wearing retainers as instructed by your orthodontist, you provide the necessary support to the teeth, allowing them to settle into their new positions and preventing any undesirable shifting.
Retainers work by exerting gentle pressure on the teeth, guiding them into the desired alignment and keeping them in place. The duration of retainer wear can vary depending on the individual, but it is recommended to wear them full-time (except when eating or brushing) for the first few months after braces removal. After this initial period, the frequency of retainer wear may decrease, but it is still crucial to wear them consistently to prevent any relapse.
Consequences of not wearing Retainers
Neglecting to wear your retainers can have a range of consequences, from subtle shifts in tooth alignment to more severe complications that can impact your oral health and overall well-being. Let’s look into some of the consequences of not wearing your retainers.
Shifting Teeth and Relapse
One of the most common consequences of not wearing retainers is the gradual shifting of teeth back to their original positions. Relapse can occur even years after orthodontic treatment. Without the regular use of retainers to provide support, the surrounding tissues and bone can gradually push the teeth out of alignment, causing them to shift back to their previous positions. This can result in crooked teeth, gaps, or crowding, effectively undoing all the progress made during orthodontic treatment.
Relapse can be particularly frustrating for individuals who have invested significant time and money into their orthodontic treatment. Not only does it require additional treatment to correct the relapse, but it can also lead to feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction with the overall outcome of the initial treatment.
Changes in Bite and Jaw Alignment
Neglecting to wear retainers can also lead to changes in bite and jaw alignment. Your bite refers to how your upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth.
Orthodontic treatment aims to achieve a harmonious bite by aligning the teeth and correcting any bite issues, such as an overbite or underbite. However, without the support of retainers, the bite can gradually shift, leading to bite problems reemerging.
When the bite is affected, it can result in discomfort, difficulty chewing, and even speech problems. Changes in jaw alignment can put unnecessary strain on the jaw joints, leading to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). TMJ can cause pain, clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth, and even headaches. Therefore, consistent retainer use is crucial to maintaining a stable bite and preventing any potential jaw issues.
Dental Hygiene and Oral Health issues
There are also implications for dental hygiene and overall oral health. When teeth shift out of alignment, it can become more challenging to clean them effectively.
Crooked or crowded teeth can create tight spaces where plaque and food particles can easily become trapped, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Proper alignment of the teeth, maintained through regular retainer wear, allows for easier access when brushing and flossing, promoting optimal oral hygiene.
Also, the accumulation of plaque and bacteria between misaligned teeth can also result in bad breath. This can be embarrassing and impact your confidence when interacting with others. Therefore, wearing your retainers as instructed by your orthodontist is not only crucial for maintaining the alignment of your teeth but also for promoting good oral hygiene and fresh breath.
Emotional and Psychological impact of Relapse
Relapse can have a significant emotional and psychological impact on individuals who have invested time, money, and effort into achieving a straight smile. The disappointment of seeing teeth shift back to their original positions can lead to a decrease in self-confidence and self-esteem. You may feel self-conscious about your smile and hesitate to engage in social interactions or smile openly.
Furthermore, correcting a relapse often requires additional orthodontic treatment, which can be financially burdensome and time-consuming. The emotional toll of relapse, combined with the inconvenience of undergoing further treatment, can be overwhelming for many individuals. Therefore, consistent retainer wear is not only essential for maintaining a beautiful smile, but also for preserving the emotional well-being and self-confidence that comes with it.
How long should you wear Retainers?
The duration of retainer wear can vary depending on several factors, including the individual’s orthodontic treatment plan and the stability of their teeth. Typically, orthodontists recommend wearing retainers full-time (except when eating or brushing) for the first few months after braces removal. This period allows the teeth to stabilise in their new positions and reduces the risk of relapse.
After the initial full-time wear period, the frequency of retainer wear may decrease. However, it is still crucial to wear retainers consistently to maintain the alignment achieved through orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists often recommend wearing retainers at night indefinitely, as this is sufficient to prevent any relapse.
It is important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions regarding retainer wear and attend regular check-ups to ensure the continued effectiveness of your retainers.
Tips to maintain Retainer Wear
To ensure that you consistently wear your retainers as recommended, here are some helpful tips:
- Establish a routine
Incorporate wearing your retainers into your daily routine. Designate a specific time of day, such as before bedtime, to put them in. By creating a habit, you are more likely to remember and follow through with wearing your retainers.
- Keep them clean
Proper hygiene is essential for maintaining the effectiveness and longevity of your retainers. Clean them using a non-abrasive toothbrush and mild soap or retainer cleaner. Avoid using hot water or toothpaste, as these can damage the retainers. Additionally, store them in their case when not in use to prevent loss or damage.
- Be mindful of your retainers
Avoid exposing your retainers to excessive heat or bending them, as this can alter their shape and compromise their effectiveness. Also, be cautious when removing your retainers, as they can be delicate. If you notice any signs of damage or discomfort, consult your orthodontist for assistance.
- Stay consistent
Consistency is key when it comes to wearing your retainers. Even if you have been wearing them for an extended period, it is essential to continue doing so to maintain the alignment achieved through orthodontic treatment. Make retainer wear a priority and be diligent in following your orthodontist’s recommendations.
Get the results you expect after wearing Braces
Neglecting to wear your retainers after orthodontic treatment can have significant consequences. From the subtle shifts in tooth alignment to more severe complications that can impact your bite, oral health, and emotional well-being, the effects of not wearing retainers should not be underestimated.
Retainers play a vital role in maintaining the alignment achieved through orthodontic treatment, providing support to the teeth, and preventing any undesirable shifting.
By understanding the consequences of neglecting your retainers, you can make a conscious effort to prioritise their use. Consistent retainer wear, as instructed by your orthodontist, is crucial for ensuring the long-term stability of your smile and preventing any relapse.
By following the tips outlined in this article and maintaining good oral hygiene, you can enjoy the benefits of your orthodontic treatment for years to come.