As with all dental treatment, orthodontic treatment requires some after care and maintenance for continued success. The key component of orthodontic after care is the retainer.
Brushing with Braces
What is a retainer?
A retainer is a device which is issued after orthodontic treatment is completed (braces are removed). There are 3 common designs
- Fixed lingual retainer - a flexible wire bonded permanently behind the front teeth.
- Hawley/spring aligner retainer - these devices have metal and plastic components and the wires and plastic plate help hold the teeth in place.
- Transparent plastic overlay retainer - this is a relatively rigid plastic piece molded to the shape of the teeth and which fits closely over the teeth. This is the most common type of retainer and is the usual type issued to our patients.
Why are retainers necessary?
The position of our teeth continue to change throughout life due to the effect of the surrounding muscles and changes in the bones. This is a long term process that can lead to changes in the bite or in the alignment of the teeth.
In addition, teeth have the tendency to return toward their original position after orthodontic treatment. This is called relapse. Therefore, retainers are provided to minimize this and ensure stability of the treatment outcome.
When you will receive your retainers
The retainers are usually issued within 2 weeks after the braces are removed. If you miss your appointment, please arrange for another as soon as possible.
What to expect
Initially, retainers may be tight and this may result in pain. However, the retainers must still be worn as the discomfort will soon subside. Inconsistent wear will result in prolonged discomfort. Take some painkiller (eg Ibuprofen) when necessary. Problems such as speech difficulty (lisping) and increases salivation should subside with continual use.
What to do if you lose/damage your retainers
Please contact us immediately if you lose or damage your retainers. It is not an emergency but it is important to have the retainers replaced as quickly as possible. You should usually continue to wear your retainers even if they are damaged unless they are causing discomfort or in a totally unusable state.
How to use your retainers
The normal usage regime recommended is:
- First 6 months - Full time wear. Only removed for eating, brushing and important social occasions.
- Second 6 months - Night time wear every night
- Subsequently - Part time Night time wear (2-3 nights a week)*Where there is any doubt about the stability of the teeth positions you should go back to full time wear immediately and begin the regime above again.
- **Extended period of not wearing the retainers will result in relapse, i.e your teeth will shift such that subsequent wear will likely cause discomfort.
How to care for your retainers
Remove the retainer during meals, when brushing teeth and for activities such as swimming and sea/water sports.
The retainers can be removed for important events such as oral examinations, interviews, wedding etc. However, do not leave the retainers out for more than 12 hours in the first 6 months.
Keep your retainers in the Retainer case/box provided or any other suitable container. (Most patients lose their retainers when they are removed for meals)
The retainers should be cleaned frequently with toothbrush and liquid soap or toothpaste
It is also common to see white/yellow deposits or stains on the retainers after a few weeks. If it is difficult to remove, leave them as long as the retainers clean.
How long do you need your retainers
All orthodontic patients (especially adult patients) should expect to wear retainers on a part time basis indefinitely as long as they want the teeth to be straight.
Retainers need to be replaced periodically due to wear and tear.