Learning to Take Better Care of Your Family's Teeth

Understanding Your Retainer

Many adolescents end up getting braces after their permanent teeth come in. This may be to correct crooked teeth or a bad bite. When it's time to take the braces off, treatment isn't over yet, however — the majority of patients will need to wear a retainer. Here is what you and your child should know about this dental appliance.

What Is A Retainer?

A retainer is a custom-made device fashioned from metal and a type of hard plastic. The orthodontic lab will specially make your retainer, as it must be molded to fit your mouth and teeth perfectly.

What Kinds Of Retainers Are Used?

Most retainers are removable, and the wearer can easily take them in and out of the mouth. These are known as Hawley retainers. In some cases, however, the orthodontist will recommend a permanent retainer that is cemented in place and cannot be removed.

Why Is A Retainer Needed After The Braces Come Off?

Teeth take a lot of pressure from chewing your food, biting into hard things such as an apple, and even from swallowing and talking. While it may appear your teeth are "cemented" in place, the truth is, they can easily shift and move.

It takes time for new bone growth to come in and solidify around the teeth that have been adjusted by the braces. Additionally, an adolescent is still growing, and this includes growth in the facial bones and jaw. All these factors can cause the teeth to continue to shift. A retainer is worn to ensure the teeth do not shift too far out of place.

How Long Does A Retainer Need To Be Worn?

Most orthodontists recommend their patients wear a Hawley retainer full-time for at least one year. Often, the recommendation is that the retainer be worn full-time for as many months or years you had to wear braces. This means taking the retainer out only for short periods of time, such as when eating or brushing your teeth.

After one year of treatment with a Hawley retainer, the orthodontist will assess how much your teeth have shifted in that time. They may recommend continuing to wear it all the time or they may have you shift to just wearing it only at night. In some cases, retainer usage must continue throughout life.

How Should A Retainer Be Cared For?

Your retainer should be removed and stored in the container it comes in before you eat anything. It should also be removed before brushing your teeth. The retainer should be brushed separately to clean it

Contact an orthodontics professional near you in order to learn more about braces and retainers.