Tuckahoe, NY – The happiest day in an orthodontic patient’s journey is often the day the braces are removed. But, just because the braces come off doesn’t mean that treatment is completely finished. Once your braces are removed, or you’ve finished your last set of clear aligners (such as Invisalign or Clarity aligners), you enter the next important phase of treatment – the retaining phase.
“Sometimes people may think that once the braces are removed, that means their teeth will stay perfectly straight forever,” says Dr. Sam Polan of Tuckahoe Family Orthodontics. “But, that is unfortunately not the case. As we age, our teeth naturally shift. And in the days, weeks and months following your treatment, your teeth will have a natural tendency to shift back to their original locations.”
Luckily for you, that is where your retainer comes in. Retainers work to do just what their name implies – retain your teeth in their new, proper locations. They counteract the natural tendency of the teeth to want to drift back to where they were before you began treatment.
There are different types of retainers, and Dr. Polan will discuss with you which type is the best for you. Hawley retainers are typically what people think of when they think of a retainer. It consists of a metal wire that goes over your teeth to hold them in place, and an acrylic piece that fits over the roof of your mouth. Essix retainers look like Invisalign aligners – they are clear, plastic retainers that will fit over all the teeth. Some patients may require bonded retainers that are affixed to the back of the teeth and cannot be removed by the patient.
Dr. Polan will recommend the ideal amount of time you should wear your retainer each day. It is important to keep in mind that this, like the amount of time you were in braces, will be different for different patients. Some patients may be asked to wear their retainers around the clock for the first several months, while others may go right to only nighttime wear.
In general, Dr. Polan will recommend indefinite nighttime retainer wear, as teeth can shift even many years after orthodontic treatment. While many patients are diligent about wearing their retainers in the beginning, they may become more lax as time goes by. This can result in teeth shifting. Because teeth tend to naturally shift as we age (even in people who never had orthodontic treatment), it is important to continue to wear your retainer long-term to prevent this from happening.
If you go without wearing your retainer for quite some time, and want to go back to wearing it, you may find that the retainer no longer fits. If your retainer can no longer fit over your teeth, do not try to force it as this may cause damage. Call Dr. Polan at Tuckahoe Family Orthodontics so you can be fitted with a new retainer.
You put in a lot of hard work during your time in braces! Don’t let that hard work go to waste by forgetting to wear your retainer. If you have questions about your retainer, call Tuckahoe Family Orthodontics at 914-654-1859.