Next to braces, wearing a retainer is probably the first thing many people think when they think of orthodontic treatment. But it is also common for children and parents to have questions about wearing retainers, either before or during the braces being put onto the teeth. One of the most frequent questions is whether it is necessary to wear a retainer, and if it is always needed after the braces come off.
Is a retainer necessary after braces?
According to our orthodontists, the short answer is yes. All patients who wear braces will be prescribed a retainer and are instructed on how to wear it and for how long. Retainers are absolutely critical to consolidating the results of braces and ensuring the long-term alignment and correction of the teeth and jaw.
By learning more about why orthodontists recommend retainers and learning practical tips on retainer use, you and your child can work together to have the best possible results from your orthodontic care. We’re happy to share the following easy-to-understand guide to help.
Why Orthodontists Recommend Retainers
In the most simple terms, braces make teeth straight and retainers keep them straight. Even after the braces move the teeth in the jaw, the job is not done. Retainers help to keep the teeth in line while the bone that holds the teeth in place regrows.
By skipping or not committing to retainer use, this bone will not regrow properly and much, if not all, of the results that took so much time and care can be reversed. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, changes in tooth position are always happening throughout a person’s entire life. While some amount is normal, even with retainers, there is an extremely high risk of reversion without them.
Typically, orthodontists recommend the retention phase to last a minimum of 24 months. In some cases, it can be longer, and many patients opt to make retainer use a long-term part of their lifestyle and oral health routine.
Understanding Retainer Options
Your orthodontist can discuss options for retainers and the steps for fitting and crafting the device. Common types of retainers include:
- Hawley Retainers: This is one of the most common retainer types and is specially designed to keep your teeth firmly in place. The Hawley retainer is a removable device that is made based on impressions of your teeth, and consists of metal wires and acrylic.
- Fixed Retainers: These are cemented directly to the inside surface of the lower canines. While more rigid at holding the teeth in place than removable devices, they do require careful maintenance and regular adjustment.
- Essix Retainers: This is a clear removable retainer that is fitted over the entire arch of teeth. Essix retainers do not have metal wires, making them less visible. Advantages of Essix retainers are durability, affordability, and ease of wear.
The best choice for each patient depends on a number of factors, including budget, age, and individual tooth and jaw alignment. You can discuss options with your orthodontist. At AC Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, we’re committed to helping our patients understand their options and make the best retainer choice for their unique situation.
Tips for Retainer Use and Positive Orthodontic Results
Follow any instructions for retainer use given by your orthodontist. In general, the following steps can help your child take care of the device and achieve the best possible results:
- Always remove your retainer before eating, or if you have a fixed device, be careful when eating crunchy or sticky foods.
- Removable retainers should be worn as close to 24 hours a day as possible, exceptions include contact sports, eating, and during cleaning and brushing.
- Clean the retainer regularly and follow any and all instructions for care and storage to prevent damage.
- Attend regular follow-up appointments to ensure that any necessary adjustments are made and that alignment is being retained.
- Stay positive and don’t give up — it can take some time to adjust to life with a retainer, but before long, it’s second nature.
The final orthodontic result for your child is completely dependent on retainers, and we always encourage our patients to follow through with the hard work they have put in so far!
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
Going to the dentist or orthodontist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists and experienced orthodontists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!