It’s exciting to finally get your braces off and start enjoying your new smile. However, even after you’re done with braces, you are still responsible for the last aspect of your treatment, which is wearing and caring for your plastic retainer.
The prospect of wearing a retainer forever may seem ominous, but when your braces come off, you’ll be more than willing to put a little extra effort into making sure you get to keep the smile you earned. Plus, as you’ll read below, retainers are easy to integrate into your daily routine, so long as you follow a few basic tips.
Want to find out if you or your child needs braces? Visit Reese Orthodontics in Charleston, SC for leading orthodontic care.
What is a Retainer?
Retainers are hard plastic appliances that cup around your teeth. They’re made from molds that your orthodontist takes after your treatment has concluded. Explaining what they do requires a little bit of the nitty-gritty on how braces work to start with.
When braces apply their gradual pressures on your teeth, the ligaments and bones that hold your teeth in place loosen and stretch. These tissues have to move for teeth to be readjusted to their new positions. At that point, new bone and tissue forms to make the healthier smile your new default. All of this happens invisibly during the process of wearing your braces.
However, this change is not permanent. The ligaments that define the original position of your teeth will very gradually encourage the teeth to return to their starting positions. Over time, this leads to what orthodontists call a “relapse,” where the teeth of someone who has already had braces gradually move out of alignment again.
To “retain” the final position of your teeth after wearing braces, orthodontists create and prescribe a plastic retainer, ensuring that your smile never relapses.
Fixed vs Removable Retainers
There are two types of retainers: fixed and removable. The fixed type is not made of clear plastic. Instead, your orthodontist glues a metal wire to the back of the teeth that were treated, which permanently prevents the teeth from moving.
Removable retainers are the ones that are sometimes made from clear plastic, also called an “Essix retainer.” Additionally, a Hawley retainer is another type of removable retainer and contains a wire that does the same job.
Plastic retainers are the most durable type. Similar to Invisalign appliances, they easily attach to the patient’s teeth and retain the user’s smile, provided they are worn as prescribed.
How Long Do I Have to Wear My Retainer?
Right after your braces come off, your orthodontist will prescribe your retainer to be worn for 22-24 hours. This means that you must wear it whenever you can, including when you sleep, removing it only to eat or play contact sports.
After a few months (usually around three), they will schedule a follow-up appointment and decide based on your progress if you should keep this schedule for now or change to 6-8 hours a day. This means that at that point, you can wear it only at night. This lasts for around two years.
If all goes well, your orthodontist may lower your requirements again to only a few hours per day. This final phase should be maintained for the rest of your life to ensure that your smile never relapses.
How to Clean a Plastic Retainer
To do their job, retainers need to be cleaned and maintained. This prevents them from tasting and smelling bad, as well as becoming misshapen.
Since retainers are constantly in the line of fire of spit, bacteria, and food particles, they need to be brushed like your teeth do. The best way to do it is to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a mild soap like dish detergent. Make sure to rinse it before putting it away to make sure it doesn’t stain your retainer.
We don’t recommend using toothpaste on plastic retainers because they can potentially scrape them. Remember that the case you keep your retainer in probably needs to be cleaned regularly as well.
Choose Reese Orthodontics
If you’re an adult who is considering braces, you need professional advice on your treatment and payment options. For orthodontic treatments in Charleston, SC, Reese Orthodontics offers the latest technology and treatment plans. Our advanced and comfortable orthodontic treatments can be customized to suit your needs. A consultation with Reese Orthodontics includes scans, a comprehensive exam, and a conversation with the orthodontist to discover which treatment options are right for you.
Schedule an appointment with us today to stay ahead of your oral health and receive the best possible treatment in your area.