Once the “active” phase of your orthodontic treatment has been completed, you will enter the second, and most important, “retention” phase. In order to keep the beautiful smile and comfortable bite that we created, it is necessary for YOU (and ONLY YOU) to maintain it.
Why must I wear retainers? The process of moving teeth orthodontically involves the breakdown and building-up of bone and ligaments. This is a normal biological function and is why your teeth become loose and sensitive. Once the braces are removed, it will take several months for the bone to completely re-organize and years for the ligaments to settle into the new tooth position. Your retainers will give your teeth the support they must have to remain in their new position.
When must retainers be worn? In order to be effective, retainers must initially be worn at all times, day and night, except when brushing your teeth, eating or playing physically demanding sports.
Eventually, you will be able to phase out your retainer, putting it on only at bedtime.
How do I care for my retainers? Without proper care, your retainers will collect debris, and accumulate hard (calculus) and soft (plaque) deposits. Their presence can lead to irritated gums and make your retainer a little smelly. Always brush your teeth, gums, tongue and retainers after every meal, when you wake up in the morning and before retiring for the night. Brush carefully and floss around/under the fixed (lower) retainer.
Don’t wrap your retainer in napkins or tissue. These have a habit of being thrown out inadvertently. Don’t leave them where pets may get to them; dogs love retainers. And, do not expose them to excessive heat or direct sunlight such as the dashboard of your car. Even the heat from the hot water of a load of laundry could distort your retainer. Always keep your retainer in the container we give you, when they are not in your mouth.
Remember: A replacement laboratory charge will be necessary if your retainer is lost, broken or distorted.
How do I handle retainer problems? Orthodontic problems while in retention are very rare. If you should, however, experience a loose or broken retainer, call our office immediately for instructions. Do not wait until your next scheduled retention checkup visit! Wearing your retainers as instructed and as designed is essential to the stability of your orthodontic treatment.
Frequency of “Retention” office visits: Initially, we will see you six weeks after your braces were removed to check your retainers and have post-treatment records taken (x-rays and tooth models similar to those taken prior to treatment). The frequency of visits will then decrease to every six months, and then yearly as the retention period progresses. The first two years of monitoring your retainers as well as the initial set of retainers is included in your treatment fee. After this time, you will be placed on DEMAND RECALL, which means YOU will have to contact our office if any further adjustments or checkups are required. A nominal fee will be assessed for these visits.
What about third molars (wisdom teeth)? Eruption of third molars or wisdom teeth into inadequate space may influence the alignment of the teeth. For this reason, you should have them monitored periodically by your family dentist in order to evaluate the best course of action.
Occlusal equilibration: At the conclusion of orthodontic treatment, there may be some minor imperfections in the occlusion, or fit of the teeth. This is due to irregularities in the anatomy of certain teeth, and the fact that the teeth may have worn improperly for years in their old positions but have not yet had a chance to wear into their new positions. For these reasons, an occlusal equilibration or adjustment may be necessary. This procedure “fine tunes” the occlusion by polishing away minor amounts of excess enamel which are “high” when you bite. We may also “reproximate” or “slenderize” the lower incisors creating a flatter surface between the teeth reducing the chance of relapse. These procedures involve only a slight amount of enamel removal and in no way create a greater likelihood of decay or sensitivity.
Your future following orthodontic treatment: We certainly do not have a crystal ball and we can’t predict the future, but there are certain things concerning the correction of your teeth that we can predict.
The completion of your treatment is the result of a combination of your cooperation and our knowledge and skill. You should be aware that there are certain factors which determine the future dental health in your mouth.
Concerning the permanence of your orthodontic correction: it has been the experience of orthodontists throughout the world that most of the correction will be retained. If we could put your teeth up on a shelf and let them stay there, they would remain perfectly straight. But fortunately, they were designed to be used.
Naturally, because of the chewing forces that are at work in your mouth, there will be some adaptive changes by your teeth which will make them function best.
We do not expect your teeth to stay exactly where we placed them, since changes will occur as normal tooth function continues. This minor readjustment is not a failure of the orthodontic correction, but is the result of changes which we have learned will happen; nature’s changes are expected just as we have learned to expect changes in other portions of our body as we grow older. The general consensus among orthodontists is the longer the lower “permanent” retainer is worn, the better. There is no harm in keeping the lower bonded retainer on permanently as long as it is monitored by either an orthodontist or dentist.