Upon completion of the active phase of orthodontic treatment, retention begins
Most orthodontic patients believe that their teeth, once straightened, will remain straight forever. Unfortunately, this is not true. Teeth, the surrounding bone, gums, lips, and tongue are living tissues, and are constantly subject to change. This is why the orthodontic treatment works. When the orthodontist applies the proper forces to the teeth, the teeth move and the surrounding tissues adjust.
Knowing this, it is easy to understand that when braces are removed and the teeth are subjected to natural forces, the teeth are inclined to react to the pressure and move. Such forces include tongue and lip pressure, chewing food, and nervous habits such as nail biting, pencil chewing, etc.
Does this mean that wearing braces is useless? Of course not! Eighty-five to ninety percent of the original orthodontic problems are permanently resolved with treatment. Problems involved with the biting relationships of the teeth are corrected, and the cosmetic appearance of the teeth is enhanced and returned to normal.
To help minimize the potential for tooth movement after braces, we move into the retention phase of treatment. “Retention” is the term used to identify the time period during which the patient is wearing retainers. The advice given to every patient is to wear the upper and lower removable retainers 24 hours a day (with the exception of eating and brushing) for up to the first 6 months. Then, the retainers are to be worn at night as long as you want to keep your teeth straight!!.
Appointments will be scheduled to monitor the patient’s progress for the first year after the braces are removed. These appointments are included in the total treatment fee. However, should a retainer become lost or broken, a replacement fee will be charged. After one year of active retention, the patient will be “graduated” with instructions to wear the retainers every night during sleep to maintain a passive fit of the retainers.
After “graduation” it may be necessary to return to our office if the patient experiences any changes or shifting of their teeth that concerns them. In some cases, the eruption of the third molars or wisdom teeth may require monitoring.
It may be necessary to have new retainers made every five years or so, but that is a small price to pay to keep your teeth straight. With care and consistent wear, retainers can often last much longer.
Remember, wear them in your mouth, not in your pocket. Retainers work only when you follow our instructions.
Clean your retainers! After meals, rinse with warm water for 30 seconds per retainer upon removal. Never use toothpaste or a toothbrush; use a Q-Tip and Dawn dish soap. Make sure your teeth have been thoroughly brushed before replacing your retainers. A denture cleaner, such as “Efferdent”, can help in cleaning your retainers.
Handle your retainers with care. Retainers are easy to lose! If you take your retainers out, always place them in your retainer case for safety.