At Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, we understand the hard work and dedication that you put into your smile. That’s why we’re committed to helping you maintain your beautiful results for years to come. Once your treatment is over, it can be tempted to ease up on your oral care. However, there’s still some work left to be done! Our team is here to tell you what you need to know about retainers.
Getting your braces off or completing your Invisalign treatment is definitely something worth celebrating, but remember that this is only the first phase of orthodontic treatment. The second phase begins soon after your teeth have been straightened, and when it comes to maintaining your newly straightened smile, it’s every bit as important as the first.
This second phase of orthodontic treatment is referred to as retention, and it focuses on consistent retainer use. Retention rounds out the treatment process and is an essential part of keeping your teeth in their new, straighter positions. If you’ve been a patient with Dr. Smith, Dr. Heymann, or Dr. Skillestad for any time at all, you’ve probably already heard about how important retainers are, but you may still have some questions. To learn a little more about the different types of retainers and why wearing one is so important for your smile, keep reading below!
How Retainers Help
Many people experience slight shifting with their teeth in the late teens to early twenties. This is known as “relapse,” and refers to the natural tendency of teeth to drift back towards their original positions after orthodontic treatment has been completed. Retainers are essential to prevent this relapse! They hold your teeth in their new positions and keep this kind of natural drifting from occurring.
Your teeth aren’t the only things we want to stay put in their new position once treatment is complete. Teeth are not just fixtures in the jaw. Each one is held in its socket by elastic ligaments that connect the roots to the bone. These ligaments are living tissues that are affected by the movement of the teeth, and it is this attachment that allows for the small movements of the teeth during the orthodontic process.
During treatment, braces apply pressure on and around the teeth, facilitating the formation of new ligaments, and sometimes even bone. The first phase of treatment is the remodeling phase, and once that is complete, the new tissues, ligaments, and bone need some time to stabilize. Without a retainer holding the new positions in place during stabilization, the teeth will almost always migrate back to their old positions. If you don’t wear your retainer as directed by your doctor after your braces come off, you may find your teeth shifting back to their old positions, undoing all the hard work you’ve put into your orthodontic treatment.
However, at Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, we’ll give you all the tools you need to avoid relapse! Keeping your teeth in place is as simple as wearing your retainer as directed by your orthodontist.
Types of Retainers
The type of retainer you’re given will be determined by the specifics of your case, your preferences, your lifestyle, and your expected compliance. Just like there are fixed and removable appliances (braces and aligners, respectively), we also offer fixed and removable retainers. At Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, we’ll give you a customized retainer upon completion of your treatment. Which type we recommend will be dependent on your unique case and what your doctor believes will be the best fit.
Fixed retainers generally consist of a thin wire bonded behind the bottom or top teeth, or sometimes both. The wire stretches across several teeth and dental care is similar to that of a patient wearing braces, especially when it comes to effective flossing. These can be a particularly helpful option for patients who have or had a large space between the two upper front teeth.
Once orthodontic treatment is finished and the space is completely closed, a fixed retainer can be used to keep the space closed. Thanks to the bonded wire’s ability to hold newly straightened teeth in the ideal alignment over a long period, fixed retainers tend to have an excellent overall outcome. Plus, you never have to remember to wear them!
When it comes to removable retainers, there are a couple of different options available. The Hawley and Essix models are both custom-designed to fit your mouth once you’ve completed treatment. Our Smith & Heymann Orthodontics team will take an impression of your newly straightened teeth and use it to create a retainer with either a clear plastic material (for an Essix retainer) or from wire and an acrylic material (for a Hawley retainer.)
This is probably what comes to mind when you think of retainers. The Hawley appliance is one of the oldest retainers and tends to be the most common as well. These retainers are made of stainless steel and kept in place by wrapping a wire around your teeth that have been combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of your mouth. The metal wires can be adjusted to continue minor movement of the front teeth if needed. Although many orthodontists are moving away from this more traditional retainer, it can still be very useful in some cases.
Essix retainers are made entirely of transparent plastic and look very similar to the clear aligners used with the Invisalign system. They are much less noticeable than traditional wire retainers and should last as long as you need them, as long as you care for them properly. These retainers may cover the entire arch of the teeth or go from canine to canine. Each one is molded to the unique shape of your mouth.
Cleaning your teeth is easier with either of these removable retainers, but you do have to remember to wear them every day. They’re also a lot easier to misplace or damage, so it’s important to be mindful of where you place them and how you handle them.
Enjoy a Lifetime of Smiles with Smith & Heymann Orthodontics
In some cases, teeth may start shifting back to their original positions just a few days after completing treatment, especially in the first year after treatment. Modern orthodontic knowledge tells us that the most successful smiles will need to wear some type of retainer indefinitely after the teeth have been straightened, but with a little patience and practice, this will become just another part of your daily routine.
Here at Smith & Heymann Orthodontics, our team is dedicated to finding exactly the right orthodontic treatment for you, including the type of retainer that will serve you best. For more information about retention after orthodontic treatment, get in touch with our Chapel Hill, Durham, Mebane, and Roxboro offices today. We’ll help you maintain your stunning smile for life!