What Is The Importance of Wearing A Retainer After Braces?

In last month’s blog, we discussed the different types of retainers at Freedman & Haas Orthodontics, but we glossed over why you need to wear them! So, let’s fix that by detailing the importance of a retainer after braces in this month’s blog. 

How Do Braces Work?

The braces and clear aligners you wear before getting your retainer do most of the orthodontic heavy lifting because they’re responsible for moving your teeth! But how do your steel or ceramic braces and plastic clear aligner trays move teeth, which are stronger than iron, steel, plastic, and bone? With a little process called bone remodeling! 

(Please bear with us for a quick moment; we’re about to get technical, but we promise it’s all interesting and will help you understand the importance of orthodontic retainers!)

Your jawbone is protected by the periodontal ligament (PDL), which cushions your jaw from the pressure of teeth when you chew. When you get orthodontic treatment to straighten your smile, the constant, gentle force causes this ligament to shrink and grow for tooth movement. 

Underneath your PDL is the bone. The bone is broken down and rebuilt by osteoclasts and osteoblasts to allow the teeth to move and hold them in their final places.

While this might sound scary or painful, bone remodeling is not unique to the orthodontic experience. It actually happens in your body all the time! Most of the adult skeleton is replaced every ten years (10% every year). How cool is that?

Safely moving your teeth takes time, and your teeth stabilizing after moving takes time, too. That’s where your retainer comes in.

What Is The Importance of Wearing A Retainer After Braces?

What Is A Retainer?

Think of orthodontic treatment as moving far away. It takes some time to get everything ready to go to your new home, then you and your things have to travel, and then finally, when it’s all said and done, you have to get used to your new home and fight feelings of homesickness. 

It’s the same for teeth. We have to create your personalized treatment plan, your PDL and bones must adjust, and your teeth must move and get accustomed to their new places. Once your alignment is where it needs to be, your teeth will be homesick and try to return to their original places. Your mouth needs time to anchor the teeth to their new homes, figuratively and literally. Your retainer is how we give your mouth time to do this.

Retainers are orthodontic appliances that hold teeth in place. Unlike clear braces, metal braces, and clear aligners, they don’t apply pressure to the teeth. Instead, they act as a wall to prevent the teeth from wandering off. 

What If You Don’t Wear Your Retainer?

The bones surrounding your teeth are still remodeling after your braces come off, which means your teeth aren’t “nailed down.” Not wearing your retainer gives your teeth time and space to move out of their perfect alignment. This can lead to orthodontic relapse, which is when gaps, crowding, and spacing reappear. If you don’t wear your retainer often enough, you risk the possibility of having to restart orthodontic treatment

We strongly encourage you to wear your retainer as directed by Dr. Freedman or Dr. Haas to protect your investment. You’re so close to the finish line; don’t move it farther away by not wearing your retainer!

What Is The Importance of Wearing A Retainer After Braces?

How Long Do You Need To Wear A Retainer?

How long you need to wear your retainer in terms of both daily and overall time depends on your smile’s needs. Some might need to wear their retainers only at night, while others might need to wear them all the time (except for eating, drinking, and performing oral hygiene). Over time, your Freedman & Haas Orthodontics orthodontist will gradually reduce how much you need to wear it. How long this process takes depends on your compliance with the instructions and the complexity of your case.

How Do You Take Care Of Your Retainer?

Wearing your retainer is only half of the battle during the retention period (AKA the retainer stage). You also have to take care of them by cleaning and storing them properly. Dirty retainers can cause bad breath and oral health issues like cavities, and damaged retainers can be uncomfortable to wear or unwearable. Taking care of them is easy, especially if you have clear aligners prior. Dr. Haas or Dr. Freedman will give you specifics at your fitting appointment. Still, we want to give you an idea of what to expect when you make the transition to a retainer.

  • When you’re not wearing your retainer, store them in their protective case! The case will keep them from getting damaged, lost, broken, left behind, etc. It will also minimize the germs they come in contact with in between usage.
  • You’ll need to clean your aligners at least once a day using Freedman & Haas Orthodontics-approved cleaning products like certain soaps and retainer products. After, let them dry completely before wearing them again.
  • If you have a retainer that is not removable, you’ll need to brush it when you brush your teeth and use a water flosser to clean the hard-to-reach areas.

With good care, your custom retainers can last a very long time, allowing you to enjoy your new and improved smile for way longer than you might expect. Being responsible with your retainers will protect your wallet and happiness, too, because frequently replacing them can quickly become expensive and frustrating.

What Is The Importance of Wearing A Retainer After Braces?

Secure Your Dream Smile With Freedman & Haas Orthodontics!

We’re here whenever you need us, even after the braces come off! If you have any questions about retainers or orthodontic care, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We are always happy to help keep you smiling.

Are you looking to start treatment for yourself or your child? Schedule a free, zero-commitment consultation with Freedman & Haas Orthodontics in West Palm Beach or Wellington today to learn out if orthodontics can address your concerns.