The Importance of Wearing Your Retainer

The Importance of Wearing Your Retainer

If you’ve spent months wearing braces or dutifully working through your series of clear aligners, you’ve probably been looking forward to the day you were free to enjoy a lovely straight smile. But there’s one more step in your orthodontic journey, and that’s wearing your retainer. 

At the American Dental Clinic, Dr. Emmanuel Aguilar and our team are just as excited as you are to show your new smile, but we also want to make sure that you maintain that perfect smile for the rest of your life. Whether you used clear aligners or traditional braces to achieve straight, well-aligned teeth, it’s important to wear your retainer to help create a stable final result and protect your financial investment.

Why you need a retainer

You may be wondering why you need a retainer, once the orthodontic work is complete, and your answer is in the name of the device. A “retainer” retains the position of your teeth.

Without a retainer, your teeth may slowly return to their original position or shift, making all of your effort at straightening them useless. Your teeth are much more likely to shift their position immediately after your teeth straightening treatment ends, so it’s most important to start using a retainer right after you’re finished with braces.

Your retainer can help you maintain your straightened smile for years after your corrective treatment. Over time, you will need the retainer less and can begin reducing the number of hours you wear it.

Different types of retainers

Did you know there are different types of retainers? Some retainers may be worn for longer than others. Our team of experts can help guide you through your options and decide which is likely to work for you. The type of treatment you had along with other factors can help determine your best choice.

The most common retainer

When most people imagine a retainer, they think of the Hawley retainer, as it is quite common. Hawley retainers are made of clear plastic and a wire. The plastic sits against your gums and the wire runs along your teeth. You remove this retainer to eat, brush, and floss.

Clear plastic trays

More contemporary retainers are made of clear plastic that is molded to fit your teeth exactly, somewhat like clear aligners. This type of retainer fits snugly against your teeth and holds them in position together. Like the Hawley retainer, this type can be removed for eating, brushing, and flossing. Clear or ‘Essix’ retainers are very common in modern orthodontic practice.

Permanent retainers

A fixed or permanent retainer stays in all the time. Permanent retainers have thin wires that run behind (on the tongue side of) your teeth to maintain your alignment. Your orthodontic team uses dental cement just like they use for braces to bond them into place. 

Usually, a permanent retainer stays in for several years. If you don’t trust yourself to remember to wear your retainer or if you worry about losing it, this might be a good option for you. With permanent retainers, it is VERY important that you brush and floss the teeth that are attached to the wire very carefully and regularly!

Wearing your retainer

If you have a removable retainer, you should also have a daily plan. Wearing your retainer for as long as possible each day provides the best results, particularly in the first few months. After about 3 to 6 months, you can switch to wearing your retainer just at night. Eventually, you can progress to just wearing your retainer a few nights a week.  Our bodies never stop changing as we age and the same is true for your teeth.  If you want to maintain a beautiful smile for life, then you’ll need to wear your retainers just as long! 

If you don’t follow the recommendations for wearing your retainer, you risk wasting all of the time, effort, and money you put into your teeth straightening treatment. As you think about how to establish a routine to help you remember to wear your retainer, consider oral hygiene, too. 

Retainers can trap bacteria, so it’s especially important to care for your teeth with regular, and proper, brushing and flossing. If you have questions about your technique, talk to our staff. Include cleaning your retainer in your mouth-cleaning routine each day.

If you have questions about wearing or caring for your retainer, please don’t hesitate to click or call to schedule an appointment at our San Diego, California, office.

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