If you have had orthodontic treatment, you know that after those years of hard work, care, and expense, you will do anything to keep your smile in perfect shape. Braces are only part of the process of creating a healthy smile; wearing a retainer is the last and longest stage. When you wear a retainer regularly after your braces come off, you will guarantee that your smile stays pristine for years and improve your quality of life as you age.
At Lively & Napoli Orthodontics, our team of professionals are experts at correcting your teeth, gums, and jaw to have the healthiest smile possible. We also have a lot of experience helping our patients maintain their glowing grins. Keep reading to learn more about just how important retainers are and how to care for them!
What is a Retainer, Exactly?
A retainer is a device that Dr. Lively and Dr. Napoli custom-make to fit over or around your teeth after braces come off. This usually involves a digital scan to ensure that the fit is perfect. Your retainer might be made from a firm, clear plastic or from metal and acrylic, or it might even be permanently fixed onto your teeth! After we make your retainer and your braces come off, it’s time to start wearing it regularly.
The challenging news is that wearing a retainer is probably going to be a part of your life forever. But the great news is that with a little bit of practice, wearing a retainer regularly will become a simple part of your daily habits and keep your teeth straight and healthy. Overall, we think it’s a win-win!
Adjusting to wearing your retainer will happen fast as you learn to talk while wearing it and how to clean it. You will likely overcome any discomfort or learning curve fairly quickly, but you can count on our Lively & Napoli team to support you as well! Soon, you’ll be a pro at caring for that post-braces smile!
Supporting More than Just Your Teeth
When braces first come off, retainers need to be worn 24/7 except when eating. This might sound like a lot, but there’s a good reason for this. As your braces or Invisalign work their magic to straighten your teeth, so do all the hard and soft tissues in your mouth. When your bones shift, so do the elastic ligaments that hold the root of your teeth onto the bone of your jaw. As your treatment progresses and your teeth move and become straighter, more of the ligaments shift and even form new tissues and bones.
Once your braces are off, it takes time for these ligaments to get strong and hold your teeth in place. That’s where your retainers come in! For the first few months, Dr. Lively & Dr. Napoli will likely recommend that you wear your braces all the time, and that will help reinforce these new ligaments and tissue in your mouth. After some time passes, you can slowly wean off of wearing a retainer full-time and only wear it at night! No matter what, to keep your teeth straight, you will need to be diligent about wearing your retainer as instructed by our team.
How to Maintain Different Retainers
Now that you know all about why wearing a retainer is important, let’s talk about how to take care of them so they will last for many years to come. There are three common types of retainers that we use here at our office, and we will discuss each one and how to wear them and clean them.
Fixed retainers are made of metal wire that is placed along the back of your teeth and fixed permanently with cement. These types of retainers mean that you never have to deal with removing, replacing, losing, or breaking your retainer because it should stay on your teeth indefinitely. They are completely invisible to others, and you will likely forget they are there completely!
Caring for fixed retainers usually means taking a little extra care when brushing and flossing to ensure that nothing gets stuck in the retainer and your surrounding teeth are kept clean. It’s important to avoid really crunchy foods that could break your retainer or sticky foods that could get trapped behind it and cause tooth decay, much like with braces.
Hawley Retainers have been around for many years and are the traditional way to keep teeth straight after braces. They are made of metal wires that are attached to an acrylic base. This device should sit perfectly along the roof and bottom of your mouth and attach around your teeth, holding them in place. This style of retainer is not used as commonly anymore, but it still works for certain cases!
Caring for a Hawley retainer will mean taking the retainer and giving it a good brush with a non-abrasive cleanser like hand soap. After rinsing well, your retainer should be clean and able to be worn or stored until the next use!
Essix retainers are one of the most common types. They look and function like an Invisalign retainer, except they are meant to be used continuously after treatment is done! These clear plastic retainers fit perfectly over each row of teeth and are nearly invisible, which is a perk!
Cleaning them is almost exactly like the Hawley retainer–give them a regular brush daily to ensure that you kill bacteria and remove debris. If you notice that your retainer is looking dull over time, you can soak it in a retainer-friendly solution that will help lift stuck-on deposits and get it looking like new!
Get the Fix You Need at Lively and Napoli Orthodontics!
Have more questions about braces, Invisalign, retainers, or other orthodontic treatments? Give our Stuart office a call, and we will be happy to bring you in for a free consultation! Don’t let your fear of the dentist or financial strain hold you back–your first visit is free, and we will talk you through all our treatments and solutions for your unique needs!