The Importance of Wearing Your Retainer

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The Importance of Wearing Your Retainer

Wondering if you have to bother wearing that retainer? Skipping this essential step can undo your orthodontics in no time flat. Keep reading to learn more.

After months and months of braces or clear aligners, nothing beats the moment you finish your treatment. But before you pat yourself on the back and move on, you still have to do a few things to maintain the new, straight smile you worked so hard to get. That’s where your custom-made retainer comes in.

At Lovely Smiles Orthodontics in Richmond, Texas, our experienced team led by Nicole Thompson, DMD has several options to help you get the perfect smile and choose the right retainers. We can help you preserve your new smile and establish great retainer-wearing habits.

How retainers work

A retainer basically does what their name implies: They retain your teeth’s position. That’s because, even when you have braces or other orthodontic treatments to straighten and reposition your teeth, they can return to their original placement over time. The chance of this happening is also far higher immediately after finishing your teeth straightening treatment.

Fortunately, a custom-made retainer helps keep your teeth in place for the months and years following your corrective treatment. Over time, you can typically start reducing the number of hours you wear your retainer each day as your teeth become more solidly established in their new position. 

Not all retainers are equal

It may surprise you to learn that there are several types of retainers, and they each dictate how many hours a day it is worn. Our team offers several different retainer options, depending on what kind of dental treatment you’ve had done.

Hawley retainers

The most recognizable retainer type is the Hawley retainer. These traditional retainers come in either rubber or clear plastic material. This material rests against your gums for comfort, and a wire runs along the outside of your teeth to hold them in place. You can remove a Hawley retainer as needed for brushing, flossing, or eating. 

Clear retainers

More modern retainers come in clear plastic perfectly molded to the exact shape and contour of your new and improved smile. These clear retainers slip on over your teeth and fit snugly, which keeps your teeth from shifting or moving. Like Hawley retainers, you can remove them as needed. However, unlike a Hawley retainer, these clear options are almost invisible. 

Fixed retainers

As you can probably guess, a fixed or permanent retainer stays in your mouth all the time. These retainers rely on a thin wire that curves behind the upper and or lower arches of your teeth. We fix them in place by bonding them to your teeth with dental cement. 

We recommend this type of retainer for certain patients. For example, patients who originally had a gap between their front teeth or patients with crooked lower front teeth. This retainer is a great option if you have trouble remembering to wear your retainer regularly. However, you have to make sure to brush and floss it every day to keep it clean.

How to wear your retainer

Our team recommends that for the first six months, you should wear your removable retainers all day and all night except when you are eating or brushing your teeth. During the second six months, you can start wearing your retainers only at night. 

After the first year, you can gradually reduce the number of nights that you wear your retainers. However, you can never stop wearing your retainer. If you do, you will mostly be seeing me again for another round of treatment. We definitely do not want that to happen.

How establishing a routine can help

Unfortunately, when you don’t wear your retainer as directed, you run the risk of letting your teeth shift back into their original position, or even drift into a new spot. It’s crucial to follow your retainer recommendation closely. 

As part of your new retainer routine, make sure to brush your retainer every day with liquid soap and lukewarm water. You can also use denture or retainer cleaners e.g. polident or efferdent. But do not soak the retainers overnight, instead follow the instructions on the package. 

When they are not in your mouth, always store them in your protective case. If not, you or someone else will throw them away. Or, your pet may end up with a new chewy toy.

Also make sure to practice good oral hygiene, too. Because retainers sit in your mouth, they can easily trap bacteria around your teeth and gums, which puts your oral health at risk. Remember, your dental health and good orthodontic results go hand in hand. Do you have questions about Invisalign clear aligners, traditional braces, or retainers? Contact our office by calling 832-975-0555 or book an appointment online with our scheduling tool.