We are often asked if a patient will have to wear a retainer once their braces are taken off. The short answer to this, most of the time, is yes! Most people will have to wear a retainer, once their braces are removed. Just think of it as an insurance policy to keep your teeth in the perfect place. Retainers are part of the orthodontic treatment and will ensure the investment you made by wearing braces won’t be undone.
Simply put, a retainer’s job is to keep your teeth in place. Naturally, your teeth would want to move back to their original position, straight after your braces are removed. While you’re wearing braces, your gums and fibrous ligaments that hold teeth in place are loose. Once the braces are removed, it takes some time for the gums to tighten. By wearing a retainer, you give your gums support until they settle down. Your orthodontist might tell you after a few months that it’s ok for you to only wear your retainer at night.
There are two types of retainers namely permanent and removable. Your orthodontist will make the decision of which one you need once your braces are removed.
A permanent retainer is attached to the back of the teeth with cement and is a very thin wire. It is not visible from the front and can only be removed by a dentist or orthodontist. Most permanent retainers are left in place for a few years if it doesn’t bother the patient and will make sure your smile stays straight!
Removable retainers are moulded from clear plastic that fits over your teeth. The clear plastic version is the most common, but it can also be made from acrylic and bendable wire. After your braces have been removed, your orthodontist will make your individually suited retainer.
If you’ve had braces, wearing a retainer will be easy. The brackets of your braces are much more uncomfortable against the inside of your cheeks than a retainer. Even though you might have to get used to wearing a retainer, its function is not to move your teeth, so it won’t be as sore as wearing braces for the first time.
Some people might experience a bit of difficulty in speech because the retainer sits behind your teeth where your tongue is. Don’t panic if your speech is slightly slurring at the start, you’ll quickly get used to speaking with your retainer.
Remember that removable retainers have to be removed when you eat or drink something, so if you don’t feel like you’ll be able to brush your retainer after every meal, discuss getting a fixed retainer with your orthodontist.
This all depends on your individual needs and treatment as well as the likeliness of your teeth to move back. Some people might have to wear their retainer at night for many years after their braces have been removed and others might only have to wear it for a few months.
If you lose your retainer or it breaks, you need to contact your orthodontist immediately to make an appointment to get it fixed or replaced. Your teeth can move back to its old position faster than you think, so always listen to your orthodontist’s opinion on when to wear your retainer.
Make sure to keep your retainer in a safe place where you have easy access and where it can’t be damaged.