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All smiles and photos by Dr. Jensen
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All smiles and photos by Dr. Jensen

Wearing a Retainer After Straightening Your Teeth Is Essential for Continued Alignment

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Congratulations on getting orthodontic treatment for the health and appearance of your smile! Whether you wore braces or clear aligners, you will still need to wear a retainer to maintain that beautiful symmetry with your newly aligned teeth and bite. While wearing braces or clear aligners is phase one of your orthodontic treatment, retainers are phase two to ensure continued success.

Why Are Retainers Needed After Braces?

Your newly straightened teeth will not be able to hold their new positions without a placeholder to maintain them. In orthodontics, we call that retention, meaning your teeth retain their position instead of gravitating back to their old places.

Your teeth are kept in their place by a tissue layer of cementum, which weakens when the teeth are manually moved. Think of a rubber band. This layer of cementum will try to pull your gums back to where they started after your orthodontic treatment. Wearing a retainer keeps the cementum staying in its new position while your teeth and tissue fully adjust.

If you do not wear a retainer, you allow your cementum and gums to shift back; retainers work by holding the tissue where it has been moved. Over time, your teeth will adjust to their new positions with the help of the retainer.

How Your Retainer Supports Your Smile and How To Care for It

  • Stabilizes your bite: This oral appliance gives your soft tissues and bone time to adjust to their new place when worn consistently. It is called stabilization as wanted shifting is kept to a minimum.
  • Protects your mouth from improperly erupting wisdom teeth: If you have had orthodontic treatment in your teen years, your retainer will keep your newly erupting wisdom teeth from shifting your straightened teeth.
  • Keeps your bones and gums aligned with your teeth: With the help of your retainer, your teeth, bones, and gums will stay strong and stable for years to come.
  • Prevents the need for additional orthodontic treatment later: Properly wearing your retainer (both night and day as recommended) means your teeth won’t shift out of the desired alignment you worked so hard to achieve.

Types of Retainers

  • Fixed or bonded retainer: A strong wire bent around the inside of your teeth is cemented in place to keep your teeth aligned and stable. Brush and floss daily to keep your retainer free from harmful plaque formation. It also means keeping all scheduled routine dental cleanings so hardened plaque (tartar) is removed and doesn’t irritate your teeth and gums.
  • Hawley retainer: The base of this popular retainer is made from plastic or acrylic and metal bars that wrap around your newly straightened teeth on the top and bottom. You can take it out to eat and clean.
  • Clear plastic retainer: This clear retainer made from plastic conforms to your teeth for a perfect fit while keeping them in place. Clean them every day to keep them looking and feeling their best!

What Not To Do With Your Retainer

Wear your removable retainer as directed and clean it using cool water to avoid warping (no dishwasher, hot water, alcohol or bleach to clean). Do not wear your retainer while dining, and keep it in a sturdy container case when you take it out, so you don’t lose it. Don’t use abrasive cleaners like toothpaste or baking soda to clean your clear retainer, and brush gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. While it might be tempting, don’t swim with your retainer so you don’t lose or damage it.

We hope you love your straightened teeth and are committed to protecting them by properly wearing your retainer. After investing in a beautiful smile, you can easily keep it that way by taking good care of your teeth, gums, and retainer every day! If you have any questions about orthodontics or retainers, give us a call today! We love to help!