I'm an Adult. Do I Still Need Retainers?

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I'm an Adult. Do I Still Need Retainers?

You may have outgrown your crush on that kid in school and traded in your piggy bank for a home mortgage, but there are some things you never outgrow — like your retainer. Here’s why you still need to wear it.

You (or your parents) invested a lot in your orthodontic treatment. And the cost wasn’t only monetary; you paid the price in sacrificed sweets, a bit of teasing, and months or years of adjustments. 

When the treatment ended, you received a retainer to ensure your teeth stayed put in their newly straightened positions. But as an adult, it’s easy to slack off on your routine.

We understand. At Lovely Smiles Orthodontics, in Richmond, Texas, Nicole Thompson, DMD, and her team have heard every excuse for ditching the retainer:

  • “For the price I paid, my teeth should never move again.”
  • “I’ve worn my retainer for years. Surely that must be enough.”
  • “I’m too old to be told what I can and can’t do.”
  • “I’m old enough to know what’s best for me.”
  • “If my teeth start to shift, I’ll start wearing it again.”
  • “Retainers are for kids.”

Whatever your reason for wanting to stop using your retainer, you should know that failure to use it will lead to dental problems. The good news is that you only need to wear your retainer 24-7 for a few months after your orthodontic treatment is done. After that, you only need to wear it at night. Here’s why you need to keep wearing your retainer no matter how old you are.

Consequences of ditching your retainer

Teeth shift around throughout your life as they grow, make way for new teeth, and respond to changes in your mouth and jaw. In fact, that’s the reason braces work — teeth are moveable. 

Once your orthodontic treatment is finished, your teeth are highly susceptible to relapsing and migrating back to their crooked positions or worse. This is true whether you wore traditional metal braces, clear braces, or clear aligners. 

After just a few weeks or months, your teeth may shift enough so that your retainer no longer fits and you have to get refitted for a new one.

If you fail to wear your retainer at all, you may need to redo your orthodontic treatment from the beginning.

Your retainer options

At Lovely Smiles Orthodontics, we understand that retainers can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, which is why we offer so many different options. Our team can help you decide which one you are a good candidate for and suits your lifestyle best. They each have their pros and cons.

Fixed retainers

If you want to skip the hassle of taking your retainer out to eat and drink and avoid the chore of cleaning it each time you brush your teeth, you may be a good candidate for a fixed retainer. If so, we attach a permanent retainer to the backside of your teeth so they won’t move. However, not everyone qualifies for a fixed retainer. The doctor will let you know if you are a good candidate.

Pros: You do not have to remember to put it on. So, you do not have to worry about losing it. It is mostly invisible.

Cons: It needs to be flossed. It may irritate your tongue. Also, you need to avoid biting into hard foods with your front teeth to prevent it from coming loose or breaking off.

Hawley retainer

A combination of acrylic and metal, the Hawley retainer is the original post-braces appliance. We do a digital scan of your teeth, gums and palate so the acrylic area fits the exact contours of your mouth. Small wire components snap onto your teeth to keep it in place. The Hawley retainer is removable so you can eat, drink, and brush and then replace it.

Pros: It’s adjustable, repairable and durable. The upper and lower teeth touch each other naturally.

Cons: It may affect your speech. The wire across the front is noticeable. It may also irritate your soft tissues. Some people get a gag reflex with them.

Clear plastic retainers

We offer two brands of clear plastic retainers: Essix and Vivera. The main difference between them is the type of material they’re made of, which also affects their price. They both closely resemble clear aligners. 

These molded plastic pieces fit over your teeth like a jacket and are nearly invisible. They are less bulky than the Hawley retainer and many say more comfortable. This is a big reason why people who opt for this style of retainer tend to wear their retainer more regularly.

Pros: They are invisible, thin, and comfortable, and less likely than Hawley to affect your speech. Because they cover all of the teeth surfaces, it is more difficult for your teeth to shift.

Cons: They are not adjustable. Because they are made of plastic, they will need to be replaced more often than the Hawley retainer. They can also crack or break and if not cleaned properly may discolor. 

Whichever retainer you choose, you can bet it will protect the investment of time and money you made when you first got your orthodontic treatment. If you want to avoid repeating that period of your life, you should wear your retainer regardless of your age.

If you want to explore your options for an adult retainer, schedule an appointment by using our online booking tool or calling our friendly staff. We’re here to answer all your orthodontic questions.