The Importance of Retainers

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Today is the day. You are finally getting your braces off! You can look at your pearly whites and see straight, perfect teeth! You can eat all of those foods you have been longing to consume again… popcorn, apples, gum! It is going to be amazing and you deserve it, it has been a long time. While you are enjoying this little victory, just remember that your orthodontic plan is not quite over yet.

Once your braces are removed you still have to wear a retainer, but don’t worry this does not mean that you cannot enjoy that big bag of popcorn you have been wanting to consume. After braces, one of the most important things to remember is that your teeth can still shift. In fact, your teeth will want to move back to their original positions from before you had braces put on naturally. Almost like a toothy rebellion. This natural occurrence does not happen forever but will be more frequent right after braces are removed and can last up to 18 months. Over time teeth will also organically shift with age and can make teeth towards the front of your mouth overcrowded. This is why when you are post-braces, the Woodlands Orthodontist will go over several options to retainers including a permanent option. 

A retainer is usually made up of plastic and/ or metal that is simple in appearance. Molded to fit your teeth after your braces have been removed, they fit perfectly to apply enough pressure to your new alignment so teeth will be less likely to shift back to their original starting point. They are literally “retaining” your new pearly whites.

Most retainers are removable, but some can become a permanent fixture to the backside of your teeth. These options will be discussed with you, and will also take into account your age and case of severity. There are two main types of removable retainers, the traditional Hawley retainers, and the Essix retainer. Hawley retainers are the most common. They consist of an acrylic piece that is formed to the shape of the top of your mouth. This piece will be secured to the roof of your mouth with a metal band that will go along the outside of your teeth to keep the retainer in place.

Essix retainers look similar to Invisalign braces, they are a clear plastic tray that has been molded from a model of your teeth. They “pop” onto your upper and bottom teeth and are almost invisible to see.Retainers are not meant to be worn forever. Right after your braces have come off your orthodontist will instruct you to wear the retainer for up to six months and as close to 24/7 as possible, with the exception of brushing your teeth and eating. After that amount of time, it is highly recommended to wear the retainer only when sleeping for another 3 years. 

Celebrating the day you get your braces off is important, it’s a huge milestone, just remember to put that retainer back in after that bag of popcorn!

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