Teeth shift over time. Whether you had braces or not, whether you’re young or old, your teeth will shift over time. They might shift a little, they might shift a lot. If you have invested in braces, then you will be very motivated to make sure that your teeth don’t shift. Retainers are the best way to make sure that your teeth stay exactly where they should.
When most people think of retainers, they’re thinking of removable retainers. Removable retainers are most commonly made of clear, thermoplastic material that is adapted to fit exactly over the teeth. The retainer encases the teeth in a clear, semi rigid, thin plastic shell that prevents any shifting of the teeth. These retainers are typically worn for a few months full-time and then night-time long term.
The other type of retainer is a fixed retainer. A fixed retainer stays in your mouth all the time and can only be removed by an orthodontist or a dentist. It usually consists of a wire adapted to and glued to the back of your top and/or bottom front teeth which maintains the alignment of the front teeth.
Wearing retainers is an important part of maintaining the results of orthodontic treatment. Patient’s often ask how long they need to where retainers, and I always say, “As long as you want you teeth to be straight.” Or in other words, for the rest of your life.
Since retainers are a long term requirement for straight teeth, it’s important to take great care of them. Removable retainers should be cleaned daily and usually require replacing every several years. Fixed retainers require some maintenance as well and may need to be re-glued from time to time.
It would be nice if retainers weren’t necessary – no one is more frustrated by teeth shifting than your orthodontist. But in the end, wearing retainers is a small price to pay to keep your teeth looking great for the rest of your life.
If you are interested in a “clear retainer” head on over to our Invisalign retainers page.