A Beginner's Guide to Retainers

After months of wearing braces, having them taken off is an exciting event. No more appointments, adjustments or food restrictions. Best of all, you finally get to see your new and improved smile. But in order to preserve your bright and healthy smile for years to come, it’s important to understand the proper post-braces treatment.

A key-component to protecting your teeth after braces is wearing a retainer. A retainer helps ensure that all of the orthodontic treatments are preserved and your teeth stay in place.

What makes this small device so essential? Retainers are designed to hold your teeth in their new position while bone tissue rebuilds around them, eventually stabilizing them. Wearing braces is known as “active” orthodontic treatment. In this period, the teeth are being moved by braces or aligners to gently guide the teeth into the proper placement. After this process is complete, other natural forces can move your teeth when you bite, chew, swallow and speak. That’s why it’s critical to consistently wear a retainer to counteract these forces and preserve the results of the braces. 

Not all retainers are the same and your orthodontist will be helpful in prescribing the best one for your needs. There are two commonly used types of retainers: removable and fixed. Removable retainers can easily be put in and taken out by the patient, whereas fixed retainers are be placed and removed by the orthodontist.

Removable retainers are most often wire or clear. Wire retainers are made with a plastic-like material that covers the roof of the mouth and wires to help hold the teeth in place. Clear retainers use a transparent, plastic-like material that are made to be exact replicas of the teeth.

In order to prevent the most amount of movement as possible, most patients wear retainers nightly for life. Though this may sound tedious, it’s simply an added part of your oral hygiene routine that will ultimately protect your dental health.

Discuss with your orthodontist or dentist which type of retainer is right for you.  It’s also important to review your dental benefits to see if orthodontic treatment is covered by your dental plan and what your out-of-pocket cost may be before receiving treatment.

The information contained above is intended to be educational in nature, does not constitute medical advice, and should not be relied on as a substitute for actual professional medical advice, care or treatment. If you have any vision, dental or other health related concerns, VBA encourages you to immediately contact your optometrist/ophthalmologist, dentist/orthodontist or any other competent, licensed, medical professional.