Dental Retainers: Why You Need Them and Types You Can Choose From

You may have recently gone through treatment for misaligned teeth. Or you may have just had your braces removed. You may now be wondering how long you need to wear the retainer. You may also wonder how long a particular retainer will last. Keep reading to find out more.

Why Are Retainers Needed?

Your orthodontist put in the braces so it can correct the misalignment. Once the braces came off, your orthodontist was satisfied with the results. So why do good orthodontists like Dr. Tyler Robison recommend that you use a retainer post-treatment? They will also advise you to wear the retainer 24 hours a day for the first few months. The period immediately after removing braces is the most crucial time for your newly positioned teeth.

The fibers in the gum are still in the process of realigning to the new setting. These fibers are elastic. When the braces or Invisalign are set, the fibers in the gum stretch to a new position. But when you remove the object holding them in this stretched position, the fibers will tend to shrink back. If you hold them in this stretched position for long enough, they will be set in this new position.

How Long Does the Shifting Last?

Even after the gum fibers have set in their new places, your teeth can still shift back to their original misaligned position. The teeth were misaligned in the first place because they got pushed by your tongue or cheek muscles. These same muscles and forces will want to move the teeth again.

The movement will last throughout your life. It is a natural result of anatomy and physiology. As you grow older, your body changes. Just like your body’s skin, muscles, and bones change and shift, so will your teeth. The pressure around your teeth will go up or down with time, and the teeth will move in response.

How Long Do You Need to Keep Retainers?

Orthodontists have been trying to find an answer to this question since the beginning of their practice. The current consensus is that you need to wear your retainer to maintain perfect alignment for a lifetime. Remember that it isn’t just about the smile but a healthy bite too.

The Different Types of Retainers

Depending on your needs, you may be given one or a combination of these.

Clear Retainers

These retainers go by other names, such as plastic, Essix, and Invisalign retainers. The clear retainers resemble a tray and sit on the surface of your teeth. These retainers need to be worn for the rest of your life. You need to wear them day and night for the first few months, followed by only nighttime wear. Your orthodontist may also provide specific schedules.

Clear retainers wear out over time. The biting surfaces wear out first. If you have a habit of grinding your teeth, you may need to replace them every few months.

Hawley Retainers

These go by other names, such as metal retainers and acrylic retainers. The retainers have a colored plastic portion behind the teeth and a metallic portion in the front. These need to be worn all the time for the first two months, followed by nighttime wear.

These retainers are durable, and you should get many years of use out of them. Some patients have reported using them for over two decades. Over time, though, the wires on the retainer may start to crack. The portion that sits behind the teeth may also break.

Permanent Retainers

These also have other names, such as bonded retainers and fixed retainers. It is a wire fragment that gets fixed behind the teeth. It can be used on any part of your teeth. Hence, they cannot be removed, staying in their fixed place for life. You will not run into gum or cavity issues if you have good dental hygiene practices.

If you cannot maintain it and decide to remove it, you must start using a removable retainer. These retainers generally don’t need to be replaced. However, it all depends on the bite. If you bite in areas where the retainer has been bonded, it may break after some time.

No matter which type of retainer you get, diligent use is the only way to keep your teeth in the perfect place. Using them may feel inconvenient at times, but it is going to be more economical than having your teeth move back to their problematic positions.

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