Here at Sawgrass Orthodontics, we’ve talked a bit before about how important retainers are. After all the time, effort, and dedication you put into successfully completing the first phase of your orthodontic treatment, it can be tempting to think you’re through with orthodontics forever, but this is when the second phase begins. It’s just as important as the first is when it comes to maintaining your newly straightened smile, so let’s take a quick look at why retainers are such a critical part of the overall success of your treatment. 

How retainers play an important role in keeping smiles straight

Retainers play an essential role in rounding out the orthodontic process, and the second phase of almost any treatment plan will revolve around using them regularly. This is because of a natural phenomenon is known as “relapse.” This describes the tendency our teeth have to drift back towards their original positions as we age, even if they’ve previously been straightened with bracesor aligners. To keep your teeth in their new and improved positions over time, you’ll need to wear your prescribed retainer exactly as directed by Dr. Kristenand Dr. Penny.

Knowing more about the teeth and how orthodontics work to move them can help you better understand why retainers are necessary for the long-term success of your smile. Your teeth aren’t the only things we want to stay in place once treatment is complete! Teeth aren’t solid fixtures in the jaw. Each one is held in its socket by elastic ligaments that attach the roots to the bone. These ligaments are living tissue that is affected by the movement of the teeth, and it’s this particular attachment that actually allows for the small movements of the teeth during treatment.

Braces or aligners place tension in and around the teeth, and in response, new ligaments and bone are formed. The first phase of treatment is also referred to as the remodeling phase, and once it’s complete, those new tissues, ligaments, and bone will need time to stabilize. When left to their own devices, teeth will almost always begin to shift back to their previous positions, sometimes in a relatively short period of time. When you don’t wear your retainer as directed, your teeth will begin to move back to where they used to be, undoing almost every step of your orthodontic treatment along the way.

The good news is, this is easily avoidable! Keeping your newly straightened teeth is a simple matter of wearing your retainer as instructed. The first step to this second phase of treatment is determining what type of retainer will work the best for you and your smile. The specifics of your case and your preferences will be taken into consideration before Dr. Kristen or Dr. Pennyrecommend any particular retainer for you, but it’s always good to be aware of the different types available and how they can benefit your teeth.

The different types of retainers

Fixed retainers

A fixed retainer is usually made up of a thin wire that has been positioned across the interior surface of the lower or upper front teeth. It is then bonded or glued into place. Because this wire stretches across several teeth, it requires a bit more maintenance when it comes to oral hygiene, similar to that of a patient in braces.

Fixed retainers can be particularly helpful for patients who have had large gaps in between the teeth. After braces or aligners close the initial spaces, a fixed retainer can be used to keep them closed. Even though this type of retainer takes a little more work to keep clean, it can often have the best outcomes. That’s because the bonded wire is capable of holding newly straightened teeth in a more ideal alignment over a longer period of time. Plus you never have to remember to wear it!

Removable retainers

When it comes to removable retainers, there are a couple of different options available. Hawley retainers are made of a wire and acrylic material, and the Essix retainer is composed of a clear plastic material that is very similar in design to an Invisalign aligner. Both types of removable retainers are custom-made to fit your mouth following the initial phase of orthodontic treatment.

Hawley retainers

This is one of the oldest and most commonly used retainers, and it’s probably the one you would find most recognizable. Hawley retainers tend to be made of stainless steel, and work by wrapping a wire around your teeth and combining that with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of your mouth. The metal wires can then be adjusted to continue minor movement of the teeth if needed. Although many orthodontists are moving away from this more traditional retainer, it can still be useful in certain cases. A Hawley retainer is a bit more fragile than others may be, so it’s important to take good care of it if you are given one to use.

Essix retainers

Essix retainers are customized trays made of a comfortable, transparent plastic material. They are similar to the clear aligners used with the Invisalign system, and much less noticeable than traditional wire retainers. Each one is molded to the unique shape of your mouth, and one retainer should last as long as you need it, provided you care for it.

Oral hygiene is incredibly simple with either removable retainer, but you will need to remember to wear them exactly as directed to avoid any relapse. Being removable means they are also easier to misplace or damage, so be careful when handling yours and pay attention to where it is when it’s not in your mouth.

There are some special cases where we feel it may be necessary or beneficial for us to use permanent and removable retainers together to ensure no relapses occur.

Keep your smile straight for a lifetime with Sawgrass Orthodontics

Here at Sawgrass Orthodontics, we pride ourselves on creating beautiful smiles for patients of all ages in the DavieWestonPlantationCooper City, and Sunrise communitiesDr. Kristen and Dr. Penny have years of combined experience and provide only the best in individualized orthodontic care. Our team believes that the impact an aligned, healthy smile can have on your self-confidence can spill over into a better quality of life overall. We want to help you maintain that beautiful smile, and part of that is helping you find the right type of retainer! You can count on us to keep your smile straight and your mouth healthy before, during, and following your orthodontic treatment process.

- Dr. Langford

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