Are you one of the lucky people who has finished their orthodontic treatment and is enjoying all the benefits of healthy, straight teeth? If so, then cheers to you! And if you are still working through your treatment or haven’t yet started, know that the team at Sawgrass Orthodontics is cheering you on!

The next stage after treatment is retainers! Understanding how retainers work and why they are important is a vital part of your treatment and will help you maintain consistency in the months and years after you get your braces off or finish your Invisalign. So let’s dig into some of the details of why retainers are such an important part of your overall treatment, and how to take great care of them

Why Wear a Retainer?

First things first, your retainer is what keeps your teeth from shifting after finishing treatment. Teeth are unique to other parts of the body in that they are always aiming to reach a certain equilibrium, and will shift to reach it. Even more interesting is that during the treatment when your teeth are being aligned over several months and years, they lose some of their bone density in order to allow them to shift more easily. Once the treatment is done, they need to be held still and firm in order to rebuild and reset the bones.

That’s why it is absolutely essential to wear your retainer at all times during the first few months after treatment. Once your teeth seem more stable, Dr. Kristen or Dr. Penny will let you know when you can slowly adjust your schedule so that you end up wearing it only at night. Regardless of when you make this transition, it will be imperative that you continue wearing your retainers at night for the rest of your life in order to preserve your straight smile and healthy bite. 

One other component that fewer people know about retainers is that they can help prevent some of the signs of aging that happen with your teeth. It’s called physiological drift, and it is the natural progression where the mouth narrows over time, making less space for your teeth and shifting them and sometimes leading to tooth loss. Wearing a retainer regularly can mitigate this, helping to keep your teeth happy and healthy over many years.

Types of Retainers

There are two main types of retainers that we will talk about here. Some are permanently fixed to your teeth, and others are removable. Learn more about each of them and how to care for them:

Hawley & Essix Retainers

Hawley and Essix retainers are both removable retainers that Dr. Kristen or Dr. Penny may recommend depending on your treatment style and unique needs. A Hawley retainer is made from acrylic and metal that fits into the roof or bottom of your mouth and attaches around the teeth. An Essix retainer is made from clear plastic and fits over your teeth to hold them in place. 

Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is one that is permanently placed behind each row of teeth to keep them from shifting. This is done with an adhesive cement and metal wire that stretches across the teeth. Fixed retainers are invisible and require no extra cleaning other than what happens during your normal brushing and flossing routine. This makes them convenient and effective, but you will need to make sure that you are careful about biting hard foods to avoid breaking the retainer.

How Long Will You Need to Wear a Retainer?

Don’t be upset when we tell you that you’ll need to wear your retainers forever. We promise that it isn’t as tedious as it sounds! Unlike your regular treatment, wearing your retainer won’t require constant visits or adjustments. Once you get on your schedule you should be able to continue forward for years without any changes or intervention. It’s all about creating a habit that works for you and keeping your retainers safe and clean.

How To Care for Your Retainer

As we mentioned above, a fixed retainer requires little extra cleaning aside from pulling your floss underneath the wire in order to floss regularly. Removable retainers require a little extra effort, but not much. To start with, plan to rinse them frequently with room temperature water to remove saliva and other particles from getting stuck and making it more difficult to clean later. Avoid warm or hot water that might distort the material of your retainer!

First thing in the morning after you remove your retainer and plan to store it for the day, give it a good brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush and antibacterial solution. Then, just rinse well and your retainer should be clean and ready to store until that evening! 

If you notice that your retainer is growing a layer of white build-up or is getting dingy, this could be from mineral deposits in your saliva and is completely natural. To remove the build-up, soak your retainer is a denture or retainer cleaning solution that you can find at the drug store. After the soak and a brush, your retainer should be returned to its sparkling clean state!

Why Do I Need to Wear a Retainer

Sawgrass Orthodontics Is Here for You!

No matter what stage of your treatment you are in, the team at Sawgrass Orthodontics is here for you! We love caring for patients in our community, including Sunrise, Weston, Davie, Cooper City, and Plantation! If you are nearby, don’t hesitate to give us a call and even schedule a free consult with one of our doctors. Find out your best treatment plan, and get started on uncovering the smile of your dreams!

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