Are retainers really necessary?
Short answer, yes. Long answer, read ahead.
It’s a great feeling being at the end of your orthodontic treatment. Seeing your new smile for the first time or finally reaching the last aligner in your Invisalign pack is a feeling of euphoria and new-found confidence that comes along with your new smile. However, we often get asked, “Will I have to wear a retainer after braces? And how long for?”
Unfortunately, braces alone are not enough to keep your teeth straight long term. Without retainers your teeth will have a tendency to shift back to their old positions, or ‘relapse’, and can leave you feeling like the whole process of having braces was a waste of time.
Why do teeth move after braces?
The human body is in constant flux. Your lungs never stop inhaling and exhaling, your heart is always beating, at this very moment your hair is growing, over time every part of your body, your muscles, memory, eyes, nose are constantly changing, and this includes your teeth.
When going through orthodontic treatment, your soft tissues and surrounding bone move and over time your bone adapts to its new position, however the ligaments (which attaches each tooth to the jaw bone) are like elastic and don’t adapt to their new position so will continually pull on your teeth. There are other factors that can also contribute to your teeth moving over time, for example changes to your jaw as you grow and muscle memory.
How do retainers prevent my teeth from moving?
After all of that dedication in going through orthodontic treatment, the last thing you want is a relapse, and retainers are a straightforward solution to this problem. They simply hold your teeth in their new position. Luckily modern dentistry means that the retainers are now discreet and unobtrusive.
Types of retainers
Clear, removable retainers
We offer Essix and Vivera retainers, which are clear, removable and are usually trouble free. If you’re used to wearing Invisalign aligners, looking after these retainers is pretty much the same. They’re easy to snap in and out, simple to clean, unnoticeable and usually don’t cause any problems with speech.
Fixed retainers consist of a thin wire fitted at the back of your teeth, which are fixed to prevent an orthodontic relapse. You’ll need to clean around them carefully when brushing your teeth by using an interdental brush.
How long do I need to wear retainers?
A rule of thumb to live by is that you should wear retainers for as long as you want straight teeth. At first, you’ll probably need to wear it for most of the day, apart from at mealtimes, although this can vary according to your needs. After a while, we might advise you to only wear the retainer for a few hours a day or even just at night. Ideally, to preserve your smile, you’ll need to wear your retainers every night for the rest of your life.
“… Few people can claim that their visits to the dentist are enjoyable, but mine to you were. Thank you for looking after my teeth so well…” – Patient