So you have been to your orthodontist or dentist, had braces or invisible aligners and have been given a removable or fixed retainer. Here are some common questions we are asked by our patients.
Why do I need orthodontic retainers?
Orthodontic retainers are used to hold your teeth in proper alignment after orthodontic treatment is completed. Without them your teeth will quickly drift back to their original positions, also known as relapse.
A retainer may be fixed (often a bonded wire to the back of your upper or lower teeth) or removable (either a clear or plastic appliance with wires).
How long will I need to wear my retainers for?
Typically your orthodontist or dentist will prescribe you with a customised plan to prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original positions.
If you have a fixed retainer it will be wire which is bonded to your teeth and is not removable. If you have a removable retainer, this is typically worn full time for 6 to 12 months, followed by night time wear for a number of years.
It takes time for the bone and gums around your teeth to adapt to the new position of your teeth and relapse is most likely to occur within the first 12 months if your teeth are not held in place. For this reason, if you have been given a removable retainer, you will need to be disciplined in wearing it as instructed by your orthdontist/dentist. You don’t want to undo all the hard work and money put into straightening your teeth.
How long should you wear retainers after getting braces off?
The answer is as long as you want your teeth to be nice and straight. Teeth constantly move throughout life and will crowd up if there is no retainer, even into old age. So if you want those teeth straight, you have to continue wearing you retainer. Maybe until you are married, maybe until you retire, maybe forever; the choice is yours.
Can I get my fixed retainer removed?
Many patients have trouble keeping the area around a fixed retainer clean due to the difficulties flossing and the often quick build up of tartar/scale. For this reason we have many adult patients who have had fixed retainers placed asking if they can have their fixed retainers removed.
You can certainly have your fixed retainer removed at any time but your teeth will immediately begin to shift back to their original position or crowd up. This is likely to undo the orthodontic work used to straighten your teeth so removal of a fixed retainer is typically not recommend. If you absolutely must have your retainer removed, make the decision wisely.
If you have your fixed retainer removed, you can:
- Accept that your teeth will no longer be straight
- Consider a removable retainer to keep your teeth straight while aiding in keeping your teeth clean.
Are there alternatives to a fixed retainer?
A removable retainer is the best alternative if you decide to have your fixed retainer removed. It may be a clear aligner or plastic appliance which can be fabricated by your dentist after moulds are taken. They need to be worn on a regular basis for them to work so discipline is the key. If you don’t wear it you teeth will shift.
The biggest benefit of removable retainers is that because nothing is fixed to the teeth. They make cleaning around your teeth easier, allow for proper flossing and do not promote the buildup of plaque and tartar, especially around your front lower teeth.