This is the day you’ve been waiting for — the day your braces come off. But we’re not done yet. This is the final stage of your orthodontic treatment.
To keep your shiny new smile in its beautiful alignment, you’ll need to wear retainers for the final stage of your treatment.
Retainers are appliances that are designed to hold your teeth in position until your bones and gums have adapted to the change.
People are always asking us, “How long do I need to wear my retainers?” Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer. The force of your bite, the natural changes that occur as you grow, and the memory of the elastic fibres holding your teeth in their sockets all contribute to gradual relapse. The bottom line is that we want you to wear your retainers as long as possible, certainly until you have finished growing.
After your treatment is completed you’ll be fitted with either a removable appliance or a bonded retainer; in some cases both. Bonded retainers are glued to the inner surface of your teeth, where they can remain in place indefinitely. These are usually used on the bottom teeth only, but in special cases a braided wire ribbon is sometimes used on certain teeth on the upper jaw. Removable vacuum-formed retainers are made of extremely durable plastic, and should last about two years.
Here’s some practical advice for maximising the effectiveness of your retainers.
You clean your teeth, so don’t forget to clean your retainers! Your removable retainer is made of vacuum-formed plastic, so don’t put it in hot water because it’ll soften it and change its shape. Instead, clean it with a toothbrush and dishwashing liquid to prevent scratching and discolouring.
If you have a bonded retainer, you’ll need to floss carefully, just like you did with your braces. This will keep your gums healthy and prevent a build-up of harmful calculus, which can lead to gum disease.
This means in your mouth, not in your pocket or purse. You should wear them full-time for the first two days (except when you’re eating), then every night after that. After about two years of wearing your retainers to bed every night you can start to taper off, but very gradually. You should wear them as often as necessary to keep them fitting correctly; for most people this means every second night for another four or five years. If you forget to wear them for more than one night, you may find that your teeth shift a little and your retainer may no longer fit exactly. This can usually be corrected by wearing the retainer full time for a couple of days.
If you stop wearing your retainers, your teeth could start to rebound to their original alignment. It may be very slight, or it may be quite dramatic; if you don’t want to find out, it’s best to keep wearing your retainers!
Keep them safe
One set of retainers is covered in the cost of your treatment, but if you lose or break them the replacements can be expensive. Whenever your retainer isn’t in your mouth, keep it in its case; countless retainers have been lost forever in restaurant rubbish bins, crushed in back pockets or chewed up and buried in the garden by curious dogs.
Always bring your retainers to each appointment. You’ll need to have three retention check-ups during the first year after your braces come off. We’ll know if you haven’t been wearing them, so don’t forget!