Orthodontic treatment can give you a stunning smile, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes into successfully completing the process! There are guidelines to follow, recommendations to act on, and even some rules you need to be aware of. But here you are, close to getting your braces off or using your last aligner! The Daniel Orthodontics team is so proud of you for getting this far and taking good care of your teeth while we worked to straighten them. There’s just one phase of treatment left now: retention!
You’ve probably heard us mention multiple times that regular retainer use is the key to keeping your new smile in place. The retention phase is what rounds out your orthodontic journey, but you may still have questions on how retainers work and why they’re so important. The active phase of treatment is almost over for you, so now is the perfect time to take a closer look at this invaluable orthodontic tool! Keep reading below for more information on the basics of retention and the different types of retainers available.
Why are retainers essential for long-lasting results?
In a perfect world, your newly straightened smile would last forever without another ounce of effort on your part. Unfortunately, our teeth have a natural tendency to drift back towards their original positions as we age. This phenomenon is known as relapse, and it generally begins in the late teens or early twenties. It can occur even if you’ve completed orthodontic treatment, which is where retainers come in!
When it comes to holding your teeth in their new positions over time, retainers are the easiest and most effective solution. During the active phase of treatment, we use braces and aligners to place forsus the teeth. This facilitates the formation of new ligaments and sometimes bone. Once this process is complete, these will need time to stabilize, part of which takes place during the retention phase. If there’s nothing to hold the teeth in place at this time, they’ll almost always migrate back to their old positions.
What does that mean for you, as an orthodontic patient? Put simply, if you don’t wear your retainer as recommended by our doctors, your teeth will eventually begin shifting back to where they used to be, undoing all your hard work. The good news is, keeping your teeth in place is as simple as wearing your retainer regularly!
What are the different types of retainers?
Once you’ve completed your treatment, Dr. Daniel or Dr. Jones will help you choose the best type of retainer for your smile. This will be based on your unique needs, preferences, and the expected level of compliance. Here’s a look at the different types of retainers that are most commonly used.
Fixed retainers will usually consist of a thin wire that’s bonded behind the bottom or top teeth. In some cases, it will be both. These can be a helpful option for many patients, but especially those who have (or have had) a large space between the two upper front teeth. Once treatment is complete and the space is completely closed, a fixed retainer can be used to keep it that way.
If you have a fixed retainer, you’ll need to be especially careful with brushing and flossing to ensure it stays clean. Since the wire stretches across several teeth, dental hygiene is similar to what a patient in braces will experience. Because the bonded wire holds your teeth in the ideal alignment over a long time, fixed retainers often have excellent outcomes. You never have to remember to wear them, either!
There are a couple of different options available when it comes to removable retainers. The Hawley and Essix models are both custom-designed to fit your mouth for the best results. When you complete the active phase of treatment, we’ll take an impression of your newly straightened teeth and use this to create your retainer.
Hawley retainers are one of the oldest types of retainers. You’d probably recognize them instantly if you saw them! They’re made of stainless steel and kept in place by wrapping a wire around your teeth. That wire has been combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of your mouth. This can be adjusted to continue producing minor movements of the front teeth if needed. While many orthodontists are moving away from using Hawley retainers these days, they can still be useful in certain cases.
Essix retainers look very similar to the clear aligners used with Invisalign and other aligner systems. They’re made entirely of transparent plastic and molded to the unique shape of the patient’s mouth. Essix retainers may cover the entire arch of the teeth or only go from one canine to the other. This type of retainer is very discreet and should last for as long as you need it, provided you take good care of it.
Cleaning your teeth is easier with removable retainers, but you will have to remember to wear them daily. They can also be pretty easy to lose or damage, so you’ll need to be careful about where you put it and how you handle it.
Get a lifetime of gorgeous smiles with Daniel Orthodontics
The first year after getting your braces off or completing your aligner series can be tricky without regular retainer use. In this post-treatment period, your teeth can begin shifting back to their old positions in as little as a few days. If you don’t wear your retainer as directed, this drifting will continue. Using your retainer responsibly will keep your amazing new smile in place for years to come!
The latest orthodontic guidance tells us that most patients will need to wear some type of retainer indefinitely for the best results. Don’t let that worry you! Your retainer will become just another part of your daily routine in no time at all. If you have questions about retainers or the retention phase, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with our Little Rock, Benton, or Bryant office today and we’ll be happy to walk you through the process. You deserve a lifetime of healthy smiles and we’re to help you achieve that!