How Retainers Protect Your Smile

how retainers protect

The day has finally come. You are finally getting those braces off, but before you can completely celebrate, your orthodontist tells you will still need to wear a retainer. While this is the last thing you want to probably hear, don’t ignore your orthodontist’s recommendations. Retainers are necessary to protect your smile and keep your teeth from moving back to their original position. For your most beautiful smile, wear your retainer as recommended by the orthodontist.

How do retainers protect your smile?

Retainers are made of plastic or metal and can be custom fit to either your top or bottom teeth or both. They are more common than you might realize. Not only do people wear them after braces, but others wear them to fix gaps in their teeth or to help with speech problems.

While this might seem unnecessary when you look at the beautiful smile that is revealed when your braces are removed, your teeth may continue to shift even after treatment and that is why you need to wear a retainer, to help keep your teeth in their new positions. After all the money and time already invested in your smile, why wouldn’t you want to protect it?

How long you will have to wear a retainer depends on your particular situation. You might have to wear them all day for a few months and then only at night or you may need to wear them at night from the beginning. Depending on the shifting of your teeth, you might have to wear a retainer for a year or more.

Other conditions, retainers may be worn for include tongue thrust, where your tongue pokes out between your teeth when you talk, and for people with temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

Retainers generally come in two types, removable and fixed. The removable kind are usually worn for about a year, while the fixed retainer may be worn for several years. Fixed retainers are adhered to the backs of your teeth using cement. There are two types of removable retainers that most orthodontists offer. The Hawley retainer is kept in place by a wire that wraps around your teeth. The Invisible or Essix Retainer is made of plastic so it is not as noticeable to the casual eye. Have a conversation with your orthodontist about which one is better for your particular situation.

What to expect from wearing a retainer

After your braces are removed, your orthodontist will fit you for the retainer by creating a mold of your teeth using alginate. Today, you can even add your personal style to your retainer by choosing unique colors or adding pictures to it. Once your retainer is made, you will go back into the office for the final fitting.

Like when you were wearing braces, with the retainers, your teeth may feel pressure and you may experience some soreness as your mouth adjusts to the retainer. If the retainer causes you pain though or cuts into your gums, then let your orthodontist know. It probably needs some readjustment.

If you only have to wear the retainer at night, you probably won’t feel too much of an impact on your daily living, but if you have to wear them all day long, you will need to get used to speaking with them and remembering to take them out when you eat.

Expect your speech to be affected for the first few days. Try talking at a slower speed until you get used to the feel of the retainers in your mouth. Reading aloud for a few minutes a day can also help. The retainer may also stimulate an increased saliva production in your mouth those first few days. Don’t worry, all of this is expected.

Tips for taking care of your retainer

To maintain good oral hygiene, it is important that you clean your retainers every day to get rid of the bacteria, plaque and leftover food that may have built up on it. Keep in mind though that not all retainers are cleaned the same way, so make sure you get instructions from your orthodontist on how to properly clean your particular kind of retainer. Some may simple be cleaned with toothpaste while others may need to be soaked in mouthwash or a denture cleaning solution.

Practicing good oral hygiene is also essential to protect your smile. Make sure you are brushing and flossing your teeth regularly and keeping your retainer clean to prevent cavities and gum disease. Make sure you also go for your regular dental cleanings as well while you are wearing the retainer.

When you are not wearing your retainer, be sure to keep it soaking to prevent it from drying out and cracking it. Also keep it away from any heat source and do not flip the retainer around in your mouth which could cause the wires to bend. Retainers can be expensive so you don’t want to have to replace it because of carelessness.  A gap in your treatment can also mean you will have to wear the retainer for even longer.

Another issue that may come up is how easy it is to misplace or lose your retainer. Because you need to remove them every time you eat, there is a chance you might leave it behind somewhere. To prevent that, make it a habit to put your retainer back in its case every time you are not wearing it and put it back in as soon as you brush your teeth after eating. Just like you check to see if you have your keys and your cell phone before leaving, do the same with your retainer.

A beautiful smile not only makes you feel confident, like you can take on the world, it also helps you to stay healthy. The whole point of suffering through braces was to transform your smile so don’t risk losing your new smile by refusing to wear a retainer. Retainers protect your smile so you can enjoy a beautiful, healthy smile for years to come.