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RETAINERS: The Whys & Whats

Hearing the words “We’re ready to take your braces off” is music to the ears of orthodontic patients!  

And, getting your retainers means your smile is complete. 

But, some patients may be surprised when they hear that their orthodontic treatment doesn’t end the moment their braces come off — and they have a lifelong commitment with their retainers.

So, what is the purpose of retainers?  And, why is it considered one of the most important parts of orthodontic treatment?

We’ve got the answers to these retainer questions, and more, below: 

Why do I need to wear retainers?

Once your braces are removed and your teeth are “set free," they naturally want to go back to where they came from. You see, teeth are constantly ready to move, so without retainers, you may lose that new smile it took years to create. The good news is that with proper retainer wear, this can be avoided.

What kind of retainers will I get?

Generally, patients will receive TWO types of retainers — bonded and removable retainers.

Bonded Retainers

This thin wire is bonded with a special glue to the backside of your upper front teeth, your lower teeth, or both. Bonded retainers are placed as “insurance” to hold the front teeth in place — but do not support the back teeth. This is why the proper wear of removable retainers is so important (read more about this below). 

There is a belief that bonded retainers are a “permanent” fixture — but this not true. Over time, bonded retainers may come loose or fall off. If this happens, give our office a call! We do recommend keeping bonded retainers in place indefinitely, or until a dental professional recommends removing them.  

You can help your bonded retainers last longer with these tips below:

- Pay special attention to brushing and flossing around and between the wire

- Visit your dentist for regular cleanings

- Avoid hard, crunch or sticky foods.  And, cut up larger chunks of food in smaller bites.

Removable Retainers

So, you may ask how long do I need to wear my retainers?  The short answer is — FOREVER! But, the amount of time you wear them daily will decrease as months go by.

Removable retainers, also known as “Essix” retainers, are clear, plastic and custom made to fit over your teeth. Once your braces are off, these are a critical part of your post-orthodontic treatment with a lifelong commitment.

As we mentioned before, once braces come off, your teeth will want to start moving back to where they came from. So, without retainers to keep them in place, teeth will eventually begin to shift. Typically, doctor will recommend you wear them 24-7 (except when eating or drinking) for the first several months after brace removal. You will then transition to nighttime wear only.  

Because accidents happen, it’s a good idea to have a extra set of retainers in case your original set gets damaged or lost. Ask about our Retainer Assurance Program — an affordable way to make sure you always have a replacement set! 

Finally, proper care of your removable retainers will help keep them in tip-top shape so they can do their job!

- Remove them when eating and drinking

- Brush your teeth before putting them back in

- Do not use toothpaste on the retainers as it my discolor them

- Scrub them clean with liquid hand and a toothbrush, then rinse with cool water

- Efferdent denture cleaner may also be used once a week to help keep the retainer clean and freshen it up

- Be sure to place them in a retainer case when not in your mouth

- Remember, dogs love them and they are easy to throw way, especially when wrapped in an napkin or set on a table.

Most importantly, call our office immediately if your retainers become broken or lost! The quicker we can get you a new set — the better it is  for your smile!

Related Topics:

Treatment Info Sheets: Getting the Most Out of Your Retainers

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