When can I stop wearing retainers after braces?
Oct 9, 2021
You’ve finished your brace treatment – hooray! And now, you must wear retainers.
What? Yes, retainers! Retainers are there to keep the results of your orthodontist’s (with your co-operation) hard work in getting your teeth perfect.
When you finish your orthodontic treatment, you will be provided with one set of clear retainers and one set of bonded retainers. The clear retainers are your main go-to for making sure your beautiful teeth remain beautiful and straight. At Perfect Smiles Orthodontics, we recommend that you wear your clear retainers full time (day and night) for six months, and then nightly for a minimum of five (5) years.
How do they work and why retainers maintain results
After months or even years of wearing braces or aligners, your teeth have finally shifted into their desired positions. But why is it important to wear retainers after active orthodontic treatment? The answer lies in the way teeth naturally move and shift over time. You see, our teeth are not rigidly fixed in place; they are constantly subjected to various forces such as chewing, biting, and even talking. These forces can cause teeth to gradually shift back to their original positions, undoing all the progress made during orthodontic treatment.
Retainers play a crucial role in maintaining the orthodontic results by providing a stable structure that holds the teeth in their new positions. They act as a safeguard, preventing relapse and ensuring that your beautiful smile stands the test of time. By wearing retainers as prescribed by your orthodontist, you allow your teeth to settle into their new positions and give the surrounding tissues time to adapt and stabilize. This is why retainers are often recommended to be worn for an extended period after the active treatment to ensure the longevity of your orthodontic results.
But how do retainers work? There are two main types of retainers: removable and fixed.
Removable vs Fixed
Removable retainers, as the name suggests, can be taken out and put back in as needed. They are typically made of clear plastic or acrylic and are custom-made to fit your teeth. Removable retainers are easy to clean and maintain, and they allow for proper oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing.
However, their effectiveness relies heavily on the patient’s compliance in wearing them consistently as prescribed by the orthodontist. Failure to wear removable retainers as instructed can lead to relapse and the need for additional orthodontic treatment.
Fixed retainers are bonded to the back surfaces of your teeth using a dental adhesive. They are usually made of a thin, flexible wire that is invisible to others when you smile. Fixed retainers offer the advantage of being permanently attached to your teeth, which means you don’t have to worry about remembering to wear them or losing them. They provide continuous support to your teeth, ensuring they stay in their new positions. However, fixed retainers may require extra attention during oral hygiene routines, as they can make brushing and flossing more challenging.
The choice between removable and fixed retainers depends on several factors, including the complexity of your orthodontic treatment, your personal preference, and your orthodontist’s recommendation. It’s important to discuss these options with your orthodontist to determine the best type of retainer for your specific needs.
How long should you wear retainers?
Now that we understand the importance of retainers in maintaining orthodontic results, the next question is, how long should you wear them? The duration of retainer wear varies from person to person, but in general, it is recommended to wear retainers full time for the first few months after active treatment. This allows the teeth and surrounding tissues to stabilide and adapt to their new positions. After the initial full time wear period, your orthodontist will provide guidance on transitioning to part time wear, typically during nighttime.
It’s important to note that wearing retainers is not a temporary measure. To maintain the results of your orthodontic treatment, it is often advised to continue wearing retainers in some capacity for an extended period, if not indefinitely. The specifics will depend on your individual case, and your orthodontist will provide you with a personalised retainer wear schedule.
If you stop wearing your retainers for a lengthy period of time, and then try to wear them again, you may find that they will not fit anymore. This means that your teeth have moved to a different position from where they were on your day of deband. This is called relapse.
It’s crucial to follow your orthodontist’s instructions regarding retainer wear, as to avoid relapse. Remember, the investment you made in orthodontic treatment deserves to be protected, and consistent retainer wear is key to maintaining your beautiful smile for years to come.
Proper care and maintenance of retainers
To ensure the longevity and effectiveness of your retainers, proper care and maintenance are essential. Here are some tips to keep your retainers in optimal condition:
- Clean your retainers daily
Just like your teeth, retainers can accumulate plaque and bacteria. Clean them thoroughly every day using a soft toothbrush and mild soap or non-alcoholic mouthwash. Avoid using toothpaste, as it can be abrasive and damage the retainer.
- Handle retainers with care
When removing or inserting your retainers, handle them gently to avoid bending or breaking them. Avoid exposing them to excessive heat, as it can cause warping.
- Store retainers properly
When not in use, store your retainers in their designated case. This will protect them from damage and keep them clean.
- Avoid eating or drinking with retainers in
Food particles can get trapped in the retainers, leading to bacterial growth and odor. Always remove your retainers before eating or drinking anything other than water.
- Keep retainers away from pets
Pets are notorious for chewing on retainers, so make sure to keep them out of reach. If your retainer gets damaged by a pet, contact your orthodontist for a replacement.
By following these care and maintenance guidelines, you can prolong the lifespan of your retainers and ensure optimal oral health.
Why some people experience orthodontic relapse by not wearing retainers
Orthodontic relapse refers to the unwanted shifting of teeth back to their original positions after orthodontic treatment. It can occur to varying degrees and may range from minor changes to a complete reversal of the treatment’s effects. Orthodontic relapse can be a result of several factors, including genetics, age, and the natural tendency of teeth to move over time. However, the most common cause of relapse is the lack of consistent retainer wear.
Without the support of retainers, the teeth gradually start to shift back towards their original positions. This is because the bone and surrounding tissues need time to adapt to the new tooth positions. When retainers are not worn as instructed, the teeth are more likely to relapse, undoing all the progress made during orthodontic treatment.
It’s important to understand that orthodontic relapse can occur even years after the completion of treatment. Teeth are dynamic structures, and their position can be influenced by several factors over time. To minimise the risk of relapse, it is essential to follow your orthodontist’s recommendations regarding
Frequently asked questions
- How long do I need to wear retainers?
The duration of retainer wear varies, but it is often recommended to wear them full-time for the first few months, followed by part-time wear, typically during nighttime. Your orthodontist will provide you with a personalized retainer wear schedule.
- Can I eat or drink with my retainers in?
It is best to remove your retainers before eating or drinking anything other than water. Food particles can get trapped in the retainers, leading to bacterial growth and odor.
- How often should I clean my retainers?
Clean your retainers daily using a soft toothbrush and mild soap or non-alcoholic mouthwash. Plaque and bacteria can accumulate on retainers, so regular cleaning is essential.
- Can I use toothpaste to clean my retainers?
It is best to avoid using toothpaste to clean your retainers, as it can be abrasive and damage them. Stick to mild soap or non-alcoholic mouthwash for cleaning.
- What should I do if my retainers feel tight or don’t fit properly?
If your retainers feel tight or don’t fit properly, contact your orthodontist. They may need to adjust to ensure the retainers continue to provide the necessary support.
Retainers are not just an afterthought of orthodontic treatment; they are a crucial component in maintaining the results you have worked so hard to achieve.
By wearing retainers as prescribed by your orthodontist, you can ensure that your teeth stay in their new positions, free from the risk of relapse. The hard part (wearing braces) is over, now you just need to get into a good habit of wearing your retainers to keep your beautiful smile!