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A Retainer Before Braces? Really?

Welcome to Reese Orthodontics, your Charleston, SC premier Invisalign and Braces professional. We look forward to helping you obtain your best smile.

Wearing a retainer before braces may seem like an unnecessary step that will prolong your treatment. However, if your orthodontist has recommended that you do this, you may be curious why. Read on to learn the purpose and benefits of wearing a retainer before braces.

Want to find out if you or your child needs braces? Visit Reese Orthodontics in Charleston, SC for leading orthodontic care.

The Purpose of Retainers

As you may know, retainers worn after your braces hold your new smile in place. For the first year after your braces come off, orthodontists prescribe them to be worn for many hours per day, including while you sleep.

However, retainers can also correct minor spacing or placement issues. Since they exert a small amount of force on your smile to hold teeth in place, they can also be used to prep teeth for braces by fixing these minor issues.

Retainers before braces are not for everyone. Yet for specific issues, they can make your overall treatment cheaper and easier.

Minor Issues Treatable with a Retainer

View the minor issues that a retainer may be able to treat:

  • Minor spacing issues. Before you pay for a full set of braces, a retainer may be able to correct minor spacing issues. For example, minor gaps between your teeth may not require the full arch-wire braces to fix.
  • Tongue thrusting. Some people get into a habit called “tongue thrusting,” where their tongues push against their teeth so frequently that they’ve caused alignment issues. A retainer can force patients, especially young ones, to hold their tongue in the right position.
  • Teeth grinding is another issue that can be addressed with a retainer. Retainers keep your jaw in a semi-open position that inhibits grinding habits. Patients who grind their teeth in their sleep may be able to break the habit (and save their teeth from eventual damage) by wearing a retainer.

Issues a Retainer Cannot Treat

Even though retainers can help misaligned or crooked teeth move into place, they cannot shift the shape of your smile. They also cannot change the structures that have caused your teeth to become crowded in the first place.

Any issues that deal with your jaw structure require a full set of braces to be corrected. These issues include:

  • Overbites
  • Underbites
  • Crossbites
  • Crooked teeth
  • Larger or multiple gaps

These treatments change your jaw structure and tooth alignment at the source, correcting not just one tooth, but the structure that has caused them to become crooked.

Can I Wear a Retainer Instead of Braces?

For some patients, the financial advantages of retainers over full braces may seem like a dream come true. You may be wondering if you’re eligible to skip braces altogether and correct your minor issues using a retainer only.

As stated above, this largely depends on your specific issues. If you need braces due to bite problems, crooked teeth, or multiple large gaps, you cannot fix the problem with a retainer. Retainers are designed to maintain alignment, not create it.

However, if the issue is a small gap or a single tooth, a retainer may provide a cheap alternative to full braces. They may also be used to ease younger patients into their full treatment while correcting minor issues along the way.

Tongue thrusting, teeth grinding, and even thumb sucking can all be handled successfully with a retainer.

Retainer vs Invisalign

Invisalign braces are often called “retainers” due to their appearance. The differences must be understood, however, if you want to stay informed about your treatment options.

Both retainers and Invisalign are created from models that your orthodontist makes by scanning and molding your teeth. Invisalign trays, however, represent a full line of treatment that your orthodontist adjusts as you go. As your teeth are forced into new positions, the orthodontist makes a new mold to continue your adjustments.

Retainers, on the other hand, are made once to maintain a position already achieved. They are worn for many hours a day throughout the first year after braces come off and even longer. However, they cannot make major adjustments on their own.

Invisalign treatments come with their advantages and disadvantages compared to braces. However, it’s a full treatment and comes with the costs associated with the time and work required. Retainers are cheaper but don’t promise the same benefits, despite looking similar.

Choose Reese Orthodontics

If you’re considering being fitted for a retainer before your braces, you need professional advice on your treatment and payment options. For orthodontic care in Charleston, SC, Reese Orthodontics offers the latest technology and treatment plans. Our advanced and comfortable orthodontic options 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 treatments are right for you. 

Schedule an appointment with us today to stay ahead of your oral health and receive the best possible care in your area.

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