For a child or an adult who went through several months or even a couple of years with braces, there’s one celebration that’s bigger than all the birthdays combined: the day the braces come off and that healthy, even smile is revealed! At last, the goal is achieved and the process is over.
After you complete treatment with your braces, you have to wear a retainer. The length of time required for this part of your treatment depends upon your mouth and teeth.
For example, you might have to wear it all day every day for six months, then only at night for a couple of years. Other people might require just a couple of weeks of continuous retainer wear before they transition to using it only while they sleep. However, it’s important to note that everyone who has braces will use a retainer for some length of time after the braces come off.
Why It’s Important to Wear Your Retainer
After wearing braces, it takes time for your bones to harden around the teeth in their new position. During this time, they’re at risk of shifting right back to their original positions. The retainer prevents them from doing this. Not wearing the retainer is like leaving a gate open, allowing your teeth to go wherever they’d like without stopping them.
Some teeth would take that opportunity to shift a lot and might even shift enough to require wearing braces again. Retainers are designed to avoid that outcome.
- Your body continues to change as you get older. Those changes could include shifts in the jaw or teeth.
- You might develop a new habit (like chewing on a pen or on ice) or sustain an injury that encourages your teeth to move again.
- You might have to have a tooth extracted at some point, which creates a space in your mouth. Your other teeth could decide to take advantage of that space and change position.
- When your retainer is in your mouth, you know exactly where it is. Of course, a removable retainer is designed to be taken out while you’re eating or brushing your teeth, but every time you take it out you run the risk of forgetting it. Children are especially liable to accidentally throwing their retainers away in the school lunchroom. Remove it only when necessary and always keep your retainer in a brightly colored case when you’re not wearing it.
Adjusting to Your Retainer
When you first got braces, it took a few days to get used to the feel of them in your mouth. The same is true of a retainer. In fact, your speech might even be affected by the retainer during the first few days.
Stay patient and resist the urge to remove the device. You will adjust to the feeling and you’ll be able to speak normally again soon. Remember your ultimate goal is to maintain the straight, beautiful smile and better oral health for which you spent months in braces!
Here are a few more tips for living with your retainer:
- Clean it regularly according to your orthodontist’s instructions.
- Keep it away from heat sources so it doesn’t melt or warp.
- Keep your retainer case with you so you have a place to put your retainer while you eat. Wrapping it in a napkin makes it a throw-away risk for kids and adults alike!
When you got orthodontic treatment, you made an investment in yourself, so treat your retainer like part of that investment because it is! You spent time and money to correct the issues with your teeth that may have been putting you at greater risk of cavities or causing you difficulty when chewing or speaking. Your new smile is worth using your retainer as directed.
Lampros & Reopelle Orthodontics knows that once your braces are off you don’t want to be bothered with doing anything more. Remember, though, that using your retainer properly will help you to keep your smile for a lifetime. If you have any questions about proper retainer wear, or if you lose or damage your retainer, contact us at (540) 306-5291 for an appointment. We will be happy to help!