Finishing up your orthodontic treatment is always an exciting time! You finally get to experience the world with a brilliant straight smile and enjoy all the things you might have been missing during your treatment. The next big step in your care will be to adjust to living with a retainer.
If you are going from braces to wearing a retainer for the first time, there will be a small learning curve to understand how to wear and care for your retainer. If you have been using Invisalign aligners for your treatment, then you already know how the process works, but you will still need to adjust to a new schedule and how to keep your retainer in good shape for a long time.
Let’s learn a little more about why you need to wear a retainer, and how to care for it once you do!
The Purpose of a Retainer
Dr. Kovacs always tells his patients that wearing a retainer after treatment is non-negotiable. Don’t risk all of the hard work and investment that you have put into your teeth by forgetting to wear your retainer! Especially in the first few months after your treatment is done, it is imperative to wear your retainer at all times to give the bones of your teeth time to rebuild and reset after shifting during treatment. During these months if you forget to wear your retainer for even a few hours you will probably feel a difference in your teeth after.
Naturally, you will also want to avoid letting your teeth shift in the months and years after your treatment is wrapped up. Teeth are unique in that they are always trying to shift into their original arrangement, and wearing your retainer regularly at night will prevent that from happening. Don’t let your years of hard work and investment go to waste, only ending up needing orthodontic treatment again in a few years’ time!
Finally, there is another biological phenomenon called physiological drift that happens to our teeth as we age. Over the years, people’s mouths tend to narrow and can become more crowded. Wearing a retainer long-term can prevent the worst of those impacts, resulting in healthier teeth for a lifetime!
How Long Will You Need to Wear a Retainer?
The short answer is–always. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Typically patients can transition to only nighttime wear after a few months of finishing treatment. This will depend entirely upon Dr. Kovacs’ recommendation, so be sure to consult with him before transitioning your routine!
After you shift to night time wear, it really is best to continue wearing your retainer for the rest of your life. As mentioned above, it won’t only preserve your pretty smile but can keep teeth safe from the impact of aging, improving your overall health and confidence as you age.
Types of Retainers
One factor that will impact how long you wear your retainer is which type of retainer you use. Some are removable, and some are permanent. Let’s learn a little more about each one.
Hawley & Essix Retainers
Two of the most common removable retainer types are the Hawley and Essix retainers. Hawley retainers are made of acrylic and metal that fit into the roof or bottom of your mouth and wrap around your teeth, holding them into place. These are the original retainers, and though used less commonly now, they are still helpful for some patients!
The Essix retainers look and work just like an Invisalign aligner tray. Made from clear plastic that fits perfectly over your teeth, they hold the teeth in place while being worn. Both of these retainers are easy to wear and clean but need to be removed when eating or drinking, and you need to be cautious about using heat with them as they can melt or distort. They also need to be safely stored to prevent them from being thrown away!
Fixed retainers are permanent retainers that, if recommended, Dr. Kovacs will cement directly onto the back of your teeth. These retainers are easy to care for as you simply brush and floss as usual, and they are invisible and require no special attention. Many patients love the ease of a permanent retainer, though you do have to be cautious about which types of food you eat while wearing one.
How To Care for Your Retainer
Caring for a removable retainer is easy. First, set aside a toothbrush that you will use especially for the purpose of cleaning your retainers. Then, first thing when you wake up, take out your retainers and give them a good rinse to remove saliva or other particles. Then grab your toothbrush and scrub your retainer with an antibacterial cleaner like hand soap or alcohol-free mouthwash. This will kill bad bacteria that are growing there, and make it fresh and clean for your next use.
If you notice your retainer getting dingy or having a white buildup that won’t come out while brushing, then consider a denture solution or soak to help release those stuck-on minerals. After soaking you should be able to brush away any remaining residue and find a fresh and sparkling clean retainer!
Let Kovacs Orthodontics Take Care of Your Teeth
Are you ready to discover your own best smile? Let Kovacs Orthodontics help you get there! We see patients near Billings and Miles City and are eager to meet you to see how we can help. Give one of our offices a call to set up a free consultation appointment with Dr. Kovacs today!