Wearing a retainer after braces is probably the last thing on your mind. Braces can be one of the most annoying, yet rewarding, things you can do to achieve a beautiful and healthy smile. In order to finally enjoy a perfect smile, it takes months and sometimes even years of tedious dedication of brushing your teeth after every meal, struggling to floss, and getting painful adjustments every few months.
When the day finally comes that you are free from wearing braces, you may be disappointed to find that your orthodontic journey is not complete. Your orthodontist will most likely advise you to start regularly wearing a retainer. Although it can be disheartening to hear, retainers serve a valuable purpose in keeping your smile exactly how you want it for years to come.
Do You Have to Wear a Retainer Forever?
So, the big question is, “How long do I have to wear my retainer?”
The short answer: it depends.
Some orthodontists choose to give patients a bonded or permanent retainer after braces, which means that the retainer is glued to the back of the teeth. The retainer is usually glued to the front six teeth on the top and bottom teeth. This glue is so strong that for most people, they never have problems with it. This option is ideal for those who don’t want to deal with the inconveniences of removable retainers.
More often than not, orthodontists choose to give their patients removable retainers. In fact, 58 percent of orthodontists prefer removable retainers over permanent ones. A major perk of removable retainers is that they are much easier to clean and you have a lower chance of cavities.
Most orthodontists advise their patients to wear their retainer all the time, except during meals and cleanings, for the first 6-9 months after braces come off. After that amount of time, most people are able to wear it only at night until their orthodontist approves that enough time has passed to let your teeth settle.
The amount of time you will need to wear your retainer after braces depends mainly on your orthodontist’s medical opinion and the progress of your teeth.
What Happens if You Don’t Wear Your Retainer After Braces?
As someone who has had braces, you know that teeth are subject to move and change overtime. This change often comes from natural aging and having dental and orthodontic work done.
When you’re wearing braces, they keep your teeth in place and have the ability to move them into different positions. Once the braces come off, your teeth are still learning to stop moving and stay put. This is where retainers become important. Without a retainer, teeth may tend to shift back to their old placement, and all that hard work you put into getting them straight will be a waste.
The change in teeth placement is usually not obvious at first. You can go months without wearing a retainer and not see any changes, until one day you notice a big gap in between your teeth. The choice to follow the instructions of your orthodontist and wear your retainer after braces can help you permanently keep your new smile.
How to Care for Your Retainer
By now, you’ve probably gotten used to your orthodontist telling you to religiously wear your rubber bands and brush under the wires. Just like how taking care of your teeth while wearing braces is important, caring for your retainer is important for your dental hygiene.
Permanent retainers are a little harder to clean and maintain because they are glued to the teeth. In order to properly clean your teeth and keep your retainer in good condition, it comes down to brushing your teeth, flossing, and regularly visiting your dentist.
It is obvious that brushing your teeth daily is essential to having a healthy and clean mouth. With permanent retainers, it’s especially important to brush to get all those small particles out from under the retainer.
Flossing is also very important when caring for your retainer. Because the wire goes across the back of the teeth, traditional flossing won’t work since you can get above the wire. Most people are advised to use floss threaders to get above the retainer and hit the gums. Flossing is important because it keeps your gums healthy and removes stubborn pieces of food and plaque from the teeth that brushing can’t reach.
The biggest action you can take to keep your permanent retainer intact is to visit the dentist. The professionals in the office are able to use tools that can effectively remove serious plaque and tartar build up from the retainers. They can also remove bacteria that has built up around the retainer and help preserve the condition of your retainer.
Caring for removable retainers is a bit more simple than permanent retainers. The major pointer to keep the retainers in good condition is to clean them every day. Most orthodontists will tell their patients to soak it in denture-cleaning products and brush it out. Another way to preserve it is to take it out when you eat or drink any beverage besides water. This prevents food and bacteria from getting stuck in between your teeth and the retainer.
Keeping your retainer case closeby can help you not lose your retainers when you take them out. It can also keep them safe from animals and small children who can get germs on it.
Even though it can be a hassle to have a retainer after braces and care for one, it is worth it to keep that beautiful smile for the rest of your life.