Why do I need retainers?
Following the completion of orthodontic treatment, the use of orthodontic retainers are vital to allow your teeth to remain nice and straight. Studies have shown that there are a number of reasons that teeth become crooked again (relapse) if retainers are not used:
- Continued growth changes to your face and jaws, even in adults
- Forces on your teeth from the tongue, lips, cheeks and chewing muscles
- Gums need time to adapt to the new positions of the teeth
- Recurring habits eg: thumb sucking
- Wisdom teeth have a small effect
It is not possible to tell which patients will undergo relapse and which will keep nice straight teeth, so orthodontists give retainers to ensure that your fantastic new smile stays that way.
What types of retainers are there?
There are two main types of retainers – removable retainers, and fixed retainers. Your orthodontist will decide on the best retainer for your mouth.
Removable retainers: These retainers are often called ‘plates’. They come in different designs, but they are all made to keep teeth straight following orthodontic treatment. Removable retainers rely on patients to follow the orthodontist’s instructions and wear them properly.
Fixed retainers: These are often called ‘wires’ because they are made of a small wire that is glued onto the inside of your front teeth. These retainers are also sometimes known as ‘permanent’ retainers, but this is misleading as fixed retainers can break sometimes, and need regular maintenance. Your orthodontist will decide if you need fixed retainers for your teeth.
How long do I need retainers?
This depends on a number of factors such as whether you are still growing, how difficult your original bite problem was, the type of treatment you have had, etc.
It is important to carefully follow your orthodontist’s instructions for retainer use. Your retainer use may differ slightly to other patients because the orthodontist tailors the retainer schedule to your individual needs.
Some people ask why retainers are needed long term to keep their teeth straight. Well, we all need to do regular activities to maintain our appearance everyday. For example, to keep skin looking smooth and youthful, using regular skin creams and avoiding excess exposure to the sun is needed. Keeping straight teeth is the same – as you age, you wouldn’t necessarily expect your teeth to look perfect as everything else around them undergoes natural ‘wear and tear’. Using your retainers is like putting on that anti-ageing cream – it keeps your teeth looking good.