The day has finally arrived: it’s time to get your braces off or put away your aligners for good. Say hello to your brand new smile! Finishing orthodontic treatment is incredibly exciting for patients and orthodontists alike. But before you get ahead of yourself, the end of treatment include learning why it’s so important to wear a retainer after braces or Invisalign. This means you’re done with Carolina Oaks Orthodontics altogether!
Braces and Invisalign are the treatment phase of orthodontics. Once treatment ends, you graduate to the maintenance phase. Your teeth have worked hard to shift into their new position, so now we need to keep them there using a retainer. After the initial excitement of seeing their new smile wears off, the first question most of our Upstate South Carolina orthodontic patients ask is, “Do I really need to wear a retainer?” If you’re wondering the same thing, the answer is a resounding yes.
Here, we’ll share everything you need to know about retainers, including:
- How an orthodontic retainer works
- Why you need to wear a retainer after braces or Invisalign
- The types of retainers available
What Do Orthodontic Retainers Do?
As we mentioned (and as you’ve experienced firsthand!), your teeth have been through a lot during orthodontic treatment. Your braces or Invisalign have guided your teeth into the ideal place to give you the beautiful smile you now see in the mirror. Since your teeth have been under constant pressure to shift, it makes sense that they’d naturally want to move back to their original position once the device comes off. That’s where an orthodontic retainer comes in: it keeps your teeth where you want them to be.
A retainer does exactly what the name implies: it retains your teeth’s new positioning. Whether you choose a permanent retainer or a removable one, all orthodontic retainers keep your teeth from moving back to where they started. If you don’t wear your retainer, your teeth will once again become misaligned over time, typically resulting in more orthodontic treatment for you in the long run.
Do I Really Have to Wear a Retainer?
So the answer to that burning question all new braces-free patients are afraid to ask? Yes, you have to wear a retainer after orthodontic treatment with Invisalign or braces. That is, if you want your teeth to stay put! You’ve put a lot of time, effort and resources into your new smile — don’t you want to enjoy it for as long as possible? Think of your retainer as your insurance policy. By preventing your teeth from shifting back, it protects your investment and guarantees you’ll have a perfect smile for years to come.
In the first few months, you’ll have to wear your retainer pretty much 24/7. But fortunately, as time goes on, you’ll have to wear your retainer less and less. That’s because the longer your teeth have to get used to their new position, the stronger your smile becomes. Once your teeth become more or less locked into place, you can slowly reduce your retainer time and wear it only while you sleep.
Types of Orthodontic Retainers
Now that you know why you need to wear your retainer, let’s take a look at the different types of orthodontic retainers available. The type of retainer you choose will depend on your personal preferences and lifestyle.
Removable retainers are probably what first come to mind when you think of a standard retainer. Hawley retainers, one of the most popular removable retainers out there, are made from a thin wire attached to a molded piece of acrylic that’s custom-fit to the roof of your mouth. The wire runs along the front of your teeth to keep them aligned, so Hawley retainers are quite visible. That said, they’re much less noticeable than braces and are extremely durable. You can also choose fun, custom colors to show off your personality.
If you’re looking for a more discrete removable retainer, Essix retainers are a great option. Made from a thin clear plastic, they’re virtually invisible and can even make minor corrections to misaligned teeth as you wear them. Like all removable retainers, you can take them out to brush, floss and eat — but be sure to put them back in immediately after!
Similar to Essix retainers, Vivera retainers are also made from clear plastic. Vivera retainers are the official Invisalign retainer, created using the same state-of-the-art technology as Invisalign aligners. If you’re used to the Invisalign system, Vivera retainers are a perfect continuation of your treatment. If you haven’t had Invisalign, no matter. You can still choose to get a Vivera retainer.
A permanent or fixed retainer consists of a thin metal wire that’s bonded to the back of your teeth (typically on the lower teeth) to keep them in place. Permanent retainers are great for patients at high risk for relapse (which occurs when your teeth move back to their original position). Since they can’t be removed, they’re also a good option if you think you’ll be tempted not to wear your retainer for the recommended amount of time. It’s fixed in place so you never have to think about it. Permanent retainers are also completely invisible to others, so if you want a fully discrete retainer, this might be the best choice for you.
Still have questions about why you need to wear a retainer after Invisalign or braces? Not sure which type of retainer is right for you? Contact Carolina Oaks Orthodontics and we’d be happy to help.