Advice on orthodontic retainers

Advice on orthodontic retainers

Orthodontic patients are often surprised when I mention that in order to keep the result that I promise, retainers will be necessary for life.

Orthodontists have tried for many years to come up with treatment methods that will keep your teeth in the exact same position as they were the day that the braces or aligners came off.

Orthodontic research shows there is no such thing as stability without retention. Why? The human body is ALWAYS changing. Our hair grows, our skin wrinkles and sags (!), our bones change shape, you get the picture.

What we do know is that to keep the teeth beautiful, straight and unmoved from the day the orthodontic treatment was completed, we MUST have lifetime retention. Saying that, there will be the occasional patient that doesn’t wear their retainers as prescribed, and their teeth will hardly move at all. How do we explain this? Luck.

Expecting to devise a treatment plan that will guarantee teeth wont move after only a brief time in retention is a pipe dream. It would be the same as getting a facelift at the age of 16 and expect that you would look exactly the same 20 years later. Its just not going to happen. Keep in mind that the jaw bones are living structures, they aren’t cement. Bones move in response to pressure and pressure is ALWAYS present in the mouth, from the cheeks, the tongue and grinding pressure from the teeth.

Our advice is to wear your retainers for life! In fact, I usually give my patients THREE types of retainers. Two retainers are small, flat wires that are bonded to the back of the front teeth, top and bottom. We call those fixed retainers. The reason for bonded wires is that the first place crowding usually returns is in the front of the mouth (most commonly the lower front teeth).

On top of these retainers I will routinely fit an upper removable retainer. I ask my patients to wear their removable retainer full time for the first year after braces, night time for the second year then slowly decrease the time wearing their removable retainer, but never completely stop. Keep your smile on!!