A retainer is a custom-made appliance that needs to be worn once you have finished straightening your teeth and have had your braces removed. This helps to prevent the chance of a relapse, where the straightened teeth will begin to return to their original positions. In addition retainers can also be used to treat minor orthodontic issues. Some retainers are removable while others are bonded into position on the inside of the teeth where they are virtually invisible. Some people may be recommended to wear more than one type of retainer to help prevent the chance of a relapse. Most people will need to wear a retainer all of the time for at least the first six months after having the braces removed. After this the retainer needs to be worn regularly, generally every night.
The reason why it’s so important is that even though the teeth have been straightened they won’t be completely settled into their new positions, as the surrounding bone, gums and facial muscles need to adapt to the changes that have been made. Additionally teeth can sometimes shift back into their original positions, even after they have been straightened quite some time ago. It is not uncommon for adults who had orthodontic treatment as children to find their teeth begin to shift position many years later, especially if they have been lax about wearing their retainer.
There are three main types of retainers that are likely to be prescribed by your orthodontist. These are:
You will need to clean your retainer each time you remove it from your mouth. Hawley and Essix retainers can simply be brushed and rinsed. Lingual retainers need to be cleaned more carefully since they cannot be removed, you will probably need to spend some extra time brushing around this area.
It’s perfectly normal to feel some discomfort when your braces have been fitted. This is because your teeth and tooth roots will begin to move, so some tenderness is perfectly normal. If the pressure is too much you may need to return to your orthodontist for the brace to be adjusted, but otherwise it should be possible to deal with any discomfort using over-the-counter painkillers.
The length of treatment is something that can only be determined by your orthodontist as it will depend on the severity of your bite problems. Most people will complete treatment within one or two years, but treatment can take as long as three years.
You will need to spend extra time cleaning your teeth during treatment, and will need to clean your teeth after each meal. It is best to use special orthodontic brushes to clean around the brackets and wires, and some people find it easier to use a water flosser. You will be given full instructions on how to clean your teeth by your orthodontist.