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What is a retainer used for?

Submitted by admin on September 4, 2014

Why do I have to wear a retainer after removing my braces?

This is the most important stage of treatment. The active brace treatment will result in your great smile but only the retainer will ensure it is always a great smile.

The teeth need time to adjust in their new positions and with any process in the body – it takes time for the tissues to adapt and re-organise. The fibres which hold the roots in the bone need time to adapt to their new positions and to form new fibre attachments. While this process is undergoing – the retainer ensures the teeth can settle in this new position.

However, teeth are constantly moving throughout our lives irrespective of having brace treatment or no brace treatment. Tooth movement is an aging process, like getting wrinkles or going grey. As we get older, our teeth will move more. If there is a small amount of crookedness or crowding – over the next 20 years this may become more crowded. If there are bite issues, the overbite may worsen over time. The extent of tooth movement varies in every individual – some people always age a lot better than others.

When retainers are not worn as recommended the teeth will move in varying amounts.

Photo (1) shows the lower teeth on the day of brace removal. Photo (2) shows the amount of movement or relapse of the lower incisors when the retainers were not worn as recommended during the first twelve months.

Photo(1)

Photo(2)

Photo 1 - The lower teeth on the day of brace removal Photo 2 - The amount of movement or relapse of the lower incisors

To minimize this movement – retainers are recommended to be worn for as long as possible.

Your orthodontist will advise of the most suitable retainer for your ‘bite’. Often bonded or fixed retainers will be fitted especially for the lower teeth. A bonded retainer is a very thin wire which is attached to the back of the teeth and invisible. It is advisable to maintain the bonded retainer also for as long as possible.

Photo 3 - a lower fixed retainer and from the outside – it’s completely invisible Photo 4 - a lower fixed retainer and from the outside – it’s completely invisible (frontal view)

The pictures above show a lower fixed retainer and from the outside – it’s completely invisible. The picture below shows upper and lower clear removable retainers.

Photo 5 - removable retainer, worn on a nightly basis for the first 6-12 months

In addition, a removable retainer will also be fitted which is often worn on a nightly basis for the first 6-12 months. After this period, ideally, the removable retainer should continue to be worn for 1-2 nights a week for as long as possible.

AAO - Member American Association of Orthodontists BDA - British Dental Association World Federation of Orthodontists BOS - British Orthodontic Society RCS - Advancing Surgical Slandaros British Dental Health Foundation British Lingual Orthodontic Society