Congratulations! This marks the end of an important phase of orthodontic treatment and the beginning of another. The next phase of treatment is called post treatment stabilization (PTS). It is concerned with keeping your teeth as straight as possible after your braces are removed. I consider it the most important phase of treatment and it is the most difficult for me to control because you are now in total control. Removable devices called retainers are employed during this phase. Patients who do not wear their retainers, as prescribed, will certainly suffer the frustration of inappropriate tooth re-positioning.
Teeth Move After Braces are Removed
Your teeth, gums and supporting bone have all gone through changes to accommodate the orthodontic movement of teeth. Time is needed to stabilize these structures. Just as a fractured bone needs time in a cast to mend, your teeth need time in retaining devices while the supporting structures stabilize. Your bite might not feel totally comfortable immediately after the braces removal. This will improve in time. Some patients report that this can take several months. The key to stabilizing your orthodontic result is retainer wear. What keeps teeth straight after the braces are removed? Retainers, retainers, retainers. Even people who have not had orthodontics experience tooth movement as life goes on.
Jaws continue to growth and change shape as we age. Teeth will reposition themselves during jaw growth and jaw-shape changes. Orthodontic patients experience this, as well as people who have not had the benefit of orthodontics. Retainer wear will lessen the effects of normal jaw growth and jaw-shape changes on tooth positions. So, now you have two reasons to wear your retainers. The first is to stabilize your orthodontic result. The second is to lessen the effects of jaw growth and jaw-shape changes.
About Your Retainer
We have designed and have had a lab fabricate removable devices for you called retainers. Retainers will hold your teeth in place during the stabilization process and normal jaw growth remodeling. Retainers are made of a plastic-like material. They are durable, but they don’t last forever. They will have to be replaced and updated occasionally. This is different for different patients. Retainers can last for a year and then might need to be replaced. Some patients only get 6 months out of a set of retainers. Your first set of retainers is included in your case fee. The fee for additional retainers will be determined only after new models are taken and evaluated.
Remove your retainers when you eat a meal or snacks. Don’t expose retainers to high heat or detergents. Retainers should be placed in a retainer case to protect them when they are not in your mouth. To avoid a bacterial overgrowth, rinse and dry before putting them the retainer case. Pets love retainers. Pets consider retainers as chew toys. Keep your retainers away from your pets.
If your retainer has wire loops and clasps it is a Hawley retainer. You have an Essix retainer if it is clear plastic without wires. Soak Hawley and Essix retainers daily with Retainer Brite(tm) for 5 minutes. An alternative to Retainer Brite (tm) is Dawn antibacterial hand soap/dishwashing liquid. Soak your retainers in a mixture of cool water and a half teaspoon of Dawn for 20 minutes. Do not soak Essix retainers in Efferdent. Do not brush Hawley or Essix retainers with toothpaste. Toothpaste will scratch the surface and create little crannies for bacterial growth.
Remember not to use hot water ever for retainer cleaning. Hot water distorts the plastic of your retainers. Be careful around the metal clasps and wires while cleaning your Hawley retainers.
Retainers are worn for a period of years and are necessary to achieve and help preserve the final orthodontic results and to counteract normal jaw-growth changes. If the retainers are not worn, as prescribed, the teeth may shift or move into undesirable positions. Poor tooth positions, as a result of incomplete retainer wear, may need to be corrected with an additional course of orthodontic treatment. There will be an additional fee to correct any tooth movements resulting from poor retainer wear. Hawley and Essix retainers are worn full time for the first 24 hours after you first get them. You should remove them however when brushing and eating. After the first 24 hours, Hawley and Essix retainers should only be worn at night, during sleep.
Completed orthodontic treatment does not guarantee perfectly straight teeth for the rest of your life. Retainers will be required to keep your teeth in their new positions as a result of your orthodontic treatment. You must wear your retainers as instructed or teeth may shift, in addition to other adverse effects. Regular retainer wear is often necessary for several years following orthodontic treatment. However, changes after that time can occur due to natural causes, including habits such as tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, and growth and maturation that continue throughout life. Later in life, most people will see their teeth shift. Minor irregularities, particularly in the lower front teeth, may have to be accepted. Some changes may require additional orthodontic treatment or, in some cases, surgery. Some situations may require non-removable retainers or other dental appliances made by your family dentist.