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Retention After Orthodontics

Life After Clear Aligners or Braces: How Do I Keep My New Smile?

Orthodontic treatment is the best way to get a straight smile, but once the orthodontic appliances are off, your teeth can start to miss the way they used to be. This means that once the pressure has been taken off of them and they’re no longer being forced to maintain their new position, they may start to shift. It’s why retention after orthodontics is so important.

This is just one of the main problems that orthodontic patients can potentially face post treatment. The guide below will show you exactly how to retain your great new smile once you’ve achieved it, so you can kiss your braces or clear aligners goodbye for life!

Wear Your Retainer As Instructed

While retainers are often viewed as a nuisance, they’re crucial to protect the gains made with bite correction. Without them, all of the progress achieved through braces or clear aligners could be lost.

Here’s why: The same elastic gum tissue called the periodontal ligament that holds teeth in place also allows them to move incrementally in response to changes in the mouth. That’s why we can move teeth with braces or aligners, which put pressure on the teeth toward a desired direction of movement while the periodontal ligament does the rest.

But the mechanics can also work in reverse: With pressure relieved when the braces are removed, the teeth could revert to their original positions through a kind of “muscle memory.” The light pressure provided by a retainer is enough to keep or “retain” teeth in their new positions.

Retainer After Orthodontics

There are two types of retainers for post retention after orthodontics

The best known retainer is a removable appliance. Initially, a patient wears it continuously and only takes it out during oral hygiene. Wear duration may later be reduced to night time only and eventually not at all, depending on a patient’s individual needs.

While effective, removable retainers do have some downsides. Like braces, they’re visible to others. And because they’re removable, they’re frequently misplaced or lost, leading to the added expense of a new one.

An alternative is a bonded retainer, a thin piece of wire attached to the back of the newly moved teeth to keep them in place. Because it’s behind the teeth it’s not visible, and there’s no misplacing it because only a dentist or orthodontist can take it out.

Bonded Retainer shown in a patients mouth after clear aligners or braces

A bonded retainer is a good option, especially if a patient is immature and not as diligent about wearing or keeping up with their appliance. But it can make flossing difficult to perform, and if they’re removed or broken prematurely, the teeth could revert to their former positions.

If you decide to go with a bonded retainer, be sure you get some tips from your dental hygienist on how to floss with it. And if you decide later to have it removed early, be sure to replace it with a removable retainer. Either of these two options can help you keep your new and improved smile.

Be Kind To Your Retainer

The rule of thumb here is to treat your retainer like you would your teeth, and ensure that it’s always clean and protected. The easiest thing you can do for it is ensure it’s stored in a cool, dry place to prevent it becoming warped or damaged in any way. Make sure it’s always in its’ assigned case when it isn’t being used, and that it isn’t left in direct sunlight.

You should also assign it a great hygiene routine, much like you do with your teeth. You should brush your retainer thoroughly at least once a day with unscented antibacterial soap to remove any debris or plaque that may be stuck to its’ surface. If your mouth is kept clean and healthy but you continue to return an unclean retainer into your mouth each night, you could be unintentionally jeopardizing your oral health.

As important as it is to brush your retainer, it’s also important to soak it. There are cleaning solutions you can purchase to immerse your retainer in, which you can do weekly to ensure optimal cleanliness. Mouthwash works as a good alternative, too – just make sure you do it once every few days!

Always Brush Your Teeth Before Putting Your Retainer In

Brushing Teeth before using your retainer

Retainer Tip; it’s important that your teeth are clean before your retainer is put in for the night! Remember that your teeth and retainer work in accordance with one another, and depend on the cleanliness of the other in order to properly function. If both areas are regularly cleaned and kept that way, you should have no problems keeping your smile perfectly intact!

Interested in Active Aligners? Everything you need to know to get started.

Here’s a short article for potential patients wanting to find out more about Active Aligners as an alternative to traditional braces. 


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