When you think of orthodontic treatment, you’re probably thinking about braces or clear aligners like Invisalign. That makes sense. These are at the forefront of most treatment plans, but did you know that there’s more in store once the braces come off?
Yep. There’s just no way around it – a retainer will be the single-most-important determining factor in the long-term success of your or your child’s tooth and jaw alignment and health.
Dr. Freelove and everyone here at Freelove Orthodontics of Kent in the Greater Seattle area wants the best outcomes for you or your child. Since your retainer will be such a big part of that, it’s great that you’ve chosen to take the time to learn a little more about it. So, let’s get started!
Why wear a retainer?
Great question! You’ve been actively working on your orthodontic care for a few months to a few years, and you’re ready to be done! So why the extra step?
We can’t stress enough just how important a step the retainer is.
Now that your braces are off or you’ve finished your course of treatment with Invisalign, you’ve completed the active phase of treatment.
Your teeth are now just where they’re supposed to be! Not only have your teeth been shifting, but the bone of the jaw itself has been steadily altered via the gentle continuous pressure of your braces or clear aligners.
Once this pressure is released, your teeth will tend to shift back into their original configuration. This is where your retainer comes in, which is why it’s so important to wear it diligently. Generally, you’ll begin by wearing your retainer full-time, then transition after a short period to only at night.
What are my options?
Depending on your specific case, Dr. Freelove may recommend either fixed or removable retainers. While removable retainers are more common, fixed can be a great option! Let’s learn a little more about each type:
While less common than removable retainers, a fixed option can take a lot of the pressure off since you won’t have to worry about forgetting to wear it!
Your fixed retainer works by being glued to the back or “lingual” side of the front teeth. Generally, a stainless steel wire is used to keep your teeth from relapsing to their old positions.
Removable retainers that work on all teeth is a much more commonly-used option.
Your removable retainer traditionally consists of a custom-fitted piece of acrylic meant to sit on the roof or the bottom of your mouth. A wire attached to this piece is fitted to the teeth to maintain their new positions. This is what you’re probably thinking of when you think of a retainer, and it’s known as the Hawley retainer, named after its inventor, the orthodontist Charles Augustus Hawley.
Another option that you and Dr. Freelove may decide on is a little more exciting! The Essix or Clear Retainer is formed of smooth, colorless plastic. Instead of wires, it creates a mold, similar to clear aligners like Invisalign. Essix retainers are less noticeable, more comfortable, and generally less expensive!
Caring For Your Retainer.
Now that you’ve been fitted with your retainer, the first thing to remember is to wear it!
You’ll want to keep your retainer in good condition moving forward. Luckily, the team here at Freelove Orthodontics has you covered! Here are some tips for keeping your retainer in great shape:
- If using a fixed retainer, be sure to brush and floss diligently in the space surrounding the wire, as the little nooks and crannies make it a favorite spot for plaque and debris!
- Your removable retainer should always stay in its case when not in use.
- Go ahead and remove your retainer before eating and drinking. This simplifies clean-up and ensures your retainer stays hygienic and fresh!
- Cleaning your removable retainer is a cinch! Lightly brush and rinse with water. You can clean your retainer at the same time as you brush your teeth to keep things simple. Occasionally, you’ll want your retainer to soak in a fluid designed for a deeper clean.
- Be sure and avoid leaving your retainer in extreme heat, as this can warp the acrylic of a Hawley or the plastic of an Essix retainer. You should be removing your retainer to eat and drink anyway, but that goes double for hot food and drink
- Bring your retainer in with you when you come and see us so Dr. Freelove can ensure that it’s in good order and your post-active treatment is on track!
“Retain” Your Best Smile with Freelove Orthodontics!
Not only have you or your little one finished a course of active orthodontic treatment, but you’re taking the time to read up on the ins and outs of retainers. That’s fantastic! We believe that an informed patient is a successful patient.
You’re on track to have tons of success with Freelove Orthodontics. Be sure to call us, and let’s keep this success train rolling!