It’s no secret that orthodontic treatment can give you a healthier, happier smile. It’s an incredible investment into your oral health, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Here at Krieger Orthodontics, we know how much hard work goes into successfully completing your treatment. You had guidelines, rules, and recommendations to follow throughout your orthodontic journey, but here you are, with the finish line in sight at last!
You’ve done a great job of sticking to your treatment plan, and we’re proud of you for keeping your teeth healthy while we worked to straighten them. Now that the active phase of treatment is complete, there’s just one more to go: the retention phase. This will round out your orthodontic journey and keep your newly straightened smile in place! This is the perfect time to take a closer look at how retainers work, why they’re an essential part of any treatment plan, and the different types available. Keep reading below for more information on this superstar orthodontic appliance!
Why are retainers so important?
In a perfect world, you’d complete orthodontic treatment and never have to think about your smile again. Sadly, that’s not the case. There’s a phenomenon known as relapse that we have to contend with! This describes the natural tendency our teeth have to drift back towards their original, unadjusted positions as we get older. Relapse usually begins in the late teens or early twenties, and it can occur even if you’ve gone through the orthodontic process. This is where retainers shine!
During the active phase of treatment, Dr. Krieger uses braces to place tension in and around your teeth. This facilitates the formation of new ligaments, tissue, and sometimes bone. Once this process is complete, we’ll need to give these some time to stabilize. Part of this takes place during the retention phase, and if there’s nothing to hold the teeth in place at this time, they’ll almost always find their way back to their old positions. When it comes to holding your teeth in their new positions long-term, retainers are the most effective solution.
If you don’t wear your retainer as recommended, your teeth will eventually begin shifting back to where they used to be. Given enough time, this can undo all your hard work! Fortunately, keeping your newly straightened teeth where they’re meant to be is as easy as wearing your retainer regularly.
What are the different types of retainers?
Once your braces come off, Dr. Krieger will help you choose the best retainer for your smile. This will be based on your specific needs, your preferences, and the expected level of compliance. Here’s a look at the different types of retainers used.
Fixed retainers will usually consist of a thin wire that’s bonded behind the bottom or top teeth. In some cases, it will be both. These can be a helpful option for many patients, but especially those who have (or have had) a large space between the two upper front teeth. Once treatment is complete and the space is completely closed, a fixed retainer can be used to keep it that way.
If you have a fixed retainer, you’ll need to brush and floss carefully to ensure it stays clean. Since the wire stretches across several teeth, dental hygiene is similar to what a patient in braces experiences. The bonded wire holds your teeth in the ideal alignment over a long time, so fixed retainers often have excellent and lasting outcomes. One of the biggest benefits is that you’ll never forget to wear them!
There are a couple of different options available when it comes to removable retainers. Both the Hawley and Essix models are custom-designed to fit your new smile for the best results. When you complete your treatment, we’ll take an impression of your straightened teeth and use this to create your retainer.
Hawley retainers are one of the oldest types of retainers, and the one you’re most likely to recognize. They’re made of stainless steel and kept in place by wrapping a wire around your teeth. That wire has been combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of your mouth. This can be adjusted to continue producing minor movements of the front teeth if needed. Although many orthodontists are moving away from using Hawley retainers these days, they can still be useful in certain cases.
Essix retainers look very similar to the clear aligners used with Invisalign and other aligner systems. They’re made entirely of transparent plastic and molded to the unique shape of the patient’s mouth. Essix retainers may cover the entire arch of the teeth or only go from one canine to the other. This type of retainer is very discreet and should last for as long as you need it, provided you take good care of it.
Removable retainers make it easier to maintain a healthy mouth, but you will have to remember to wear them daily. They’re also easier to lose or damage than other models, so you’ll need to be careful about where you put your retainer and how you handle it.
Keep your smile looking good for years to come with Krieger Orthodontics
Did you know that in the first year post-treatment, your teeth can begin shifting back to their old positions in less than five days? If you don’t wear your retainer as directed, this drifting will continue, eventually undoing all your work. That’s why you must use your retainer exactly as directed by Dr. Krieger. This will let you enjoy your incredible new smile for many years to come!
Modern orthodontic wisdom tells us that most patients will need to wear some type of retainer indefinitely to keep their results, but don’t let that worry you—your retainer will become part of your daily routine in no time at all.
Do you have questions about retainers or the retention phase? Our expert team would love to hear from you! Get in touch with our Lewisville office today and we’ll be happy to walk you through the process. You deserve nothing less than a lifetime of healthy smiles and we’re excited to get you started!