Keeping your teeth healthy is important. But what that entails is different for everyone. For a few lucky ones, a simple regime of flossing and brushing twice a day is all they need to maintain pearly whites and a mouth free of cavities.
For many people, crooked teeth or a misaligned jaw are something they have to spend years correcting. It’s estimated that about 4.5 million people in the United States wear braces, most of whom are children.
Braces can be worn for up to 2 years, and it doesn’t stop there. All of the hard work that was done to correct your smile can fall apart if you fail to wear your dental retainer after your braces come off.
That’s why it’s so important that you wear a retainer for as long as your orthodontist prescribes. Here are 7 things you need to know about wearing a dental retainer after braces.
1. When the Braces Come Off, the Work Isn’t Done
It’s a wonderful feeling when the metal is removed and all of the braces come off. While it might be tempting to never put any more hardware on your teeth again, it’s extremely important that you wear your retainer for as long and as often as the doctor prescribes.
Even as an adult, your mouth doesn’t stop shifting. Your braces worked hard to set the ligaments, bones, and fibers around your teeth and to keep them in the right spots. And the retainers job is to retain all of that new setup that those braces worked hard to attain.
2. The Retainer Life Is Different for Everyone
How long do you have to wear retainers? The simple answer is, that depends. But you won’t be able to get away without wearing it at all.
Chances are, you or someone else spent a good amount of money for a pearly white smile that you’ll be able to carry with you for the rest of your life. But wearing your retainer is very much a part of that process.
Many orthodontists will make you wear your retainer for a full year once your braces come off, but you should really continue to wear it for as many years as you can, both at night and in between meals. For kids and teens, it’s usually recommended to be used for 10 years. It will continue to reinforce the work that the braces have done, for as long as you continue to wear it.
3. There Are Different Types of Retainers
A retainer doesn’t have to be something that you take out before you eat your lunch for all of the lunchroom to see. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be something that you are constantly cleaning and having to remember. There are a few different types so that you can decide what is best for you or your child.
Removable retainers will move around or come out when you eat or brush your teeth. Typically, these retainers should be worn full-time for a year once your braces have been removed. If after this time your teeth haven’t moved at all, your orthodontist may say that you can move on to only wearing your retainer at night.
Fixed retainers typically stay in your mouth for several years, and can even be worn for decades, depending on its state and make. They are cemented to the backs of your teeth and are held in place that way.
Hawley retainers are similar to fixed in that they stay in your mouth. However, instead of being cemented, they are secured to your teeth by a wire that wraps around.
Invisible retainers are clear so that most people won’t notice that you’re wearing one. They come in and out but they are a better option for many adults that don’t want to show their mouth gear. If you need help cleaning your invisible retainer, check out our blog on exactly how to do so.
Either way, there are many different options. If your child is one who might lose their retainer or not remember to put it in every night, a fixed retainer might be the best option.
4. Retainers Require Care, Just like Braces
If your teeth retainer is a fixed one with wire, you just need to make sure that you are flossing in between the wire and your teeth. Otherwise, you run the risk of teeth cavities or gum infection, or the buildup of tartar and plaque.
Removable retainers can be cleaned and maintained by either soaking them in vinegar and water or by soaking them in denture cleaning tablets.
It’s important that you clean your retainer as often as your orthodontist recommends. Otherwise, you can introduce additional bacteria into your mouth which can cause issues later on.
If you end up needing a root canal or any other significant work done to your teeth, it can change your bite so that you will end up needing a new retainer. That’s why it’s best to care for your teeth and your retainer to the best of your ability.
Your Dental Retainer Is as Essential as Your Braces
Even though you may have worn your braces for years, your teeth can pop right back into their old positions after not wearing your retainer. Simply put, all of your hard work and money can go right down the drain if you don’t solidify your braces’ hard work by wearing a dental retainer.
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