The Importance of Retainers After Braces or Invisalign Treatment

importance of retainers after braces | retainers after Invisalign

The day you’ve been waiting for is here! Your treatment plan for braces is complete and your smile is the one you’ve always wanted. Your self-confidence has taken a giant leap and you are ready to leave braces behind you forever.

The braces are indeed gone but you will need a retainer in order to protect that new smile. In this article, we will discuss the importance of retainers after orthodontic treatment, how long you will have to wear them, and how to care for them. 

Why Retainers Are Critical After Braces

Your teeth weren’t the only things moving during the time you had braces. The ligaments that attach the roots of your teeth to the jaw were affected, too, as well as the bones themselves. New ligaments and new bone mass were being formed to stabilize the teeth. 

A retainer holds everything in their new position no matter what kind of braces or aligners you had. Retainers after Invisalign are just as critical as those after traditional metal braces.

You will have to use a retainer to keep your teeth from slowly retreating back to their old positions, but it’s a small price to pay, right? Your orthodontic team will have your retainer custom-made for your mouth. Keep in mind your teeth are in new positions, so the impression is made for the new alignment and then the retainer is created. 

It will probably feel strange or uncomfortable at first, but it’s important to keep it in your mouth as directed by your orthodontist. You will be protecting the work that was done by the braces and also stabilizing your new bite. Unfortunately, if you don’t wear the retainer as instructed, especially at first, your teeth can shift back into the alignment you worked so hard to correct.

It takes about 18 months for your teeth to firmly set in their new, beautifully aligned spaces. And the first three to six months are especially critical, so make sure you discuss this with your orthodontist. You will probably be advised to wear the retainer for about 20 hours every day during the first six months, with less every day after that. In reality, though, the retainer will probably be with you to some degree for the rest of your life.

Length of Time For Wearing a Retainer  

This varies from person to person, but most people will have to use a retainer consistently during the first few months after their braces are removed. Similar to Invisalign clear aligners, most retainers are removed only for cleaning and also when you eat. Fixed retainers stay in your mouth all the time. Remember, the retainer provides the necessary support to stabilize the mouth’s new configuration. 

As the bones and ligaments around your teeth settle into place after braces, your orthodontist will guide you in reducing the time you have to wear the retainer every day. Then, eventually, you will be wearing the retainer only at night. The retainer will simply become part of your oral hygiene routine every day as you prepare for bed.

A question that is often asked is, “Will I need to wear my retainer for the rest of my life, even at night?” It’s a good question and the honest answer is, yes, if you want to ensure that your teeth remain straight. 

After the first six months or so, you may be able to go a few days without putting your retainers in at night and they will still fit. However, you should still wear them at least three times a week while sleeping so they continue to fit properly.

Properly Caring For Your Retainer

In general, retainers last between three and five years. There are some differences based on the kind of retainer you have: removable or fixed. In either case, though, you can maximize your retainer’s life by following best practices on how to clean, store, and wear it:

Make Sure It’s Kept Clean

Removable retainers should be rinsed in cold water before and after use and washed with a retainer cleaner every two to three months. Never use mouthwash, rubbing alcohol, or bleach as chemicals in these can warp the retainer. It should be soaked in distilled water and denture cleaning tablets or baking soda any time it isn’t in your mouth. Also, make sure to brush the retainer before putting it back in. Finally, it’s important not to let it dry out. 

A fixed retainer is much like your braces so the cleaning procedure is the same. Take care to floss carefully between each tooth to remove food particles and to also keep the retainer clean. Many people find using a Waterpik helps with thoroughly cleaning a fixed retainer.

Don’t Put It In Hot Water

Don’t soak your retainer in hot or boiling water and don’t run it through the dishwasher. Doing so can warp the retainer and it will no longer fit in your mouth properly.

Store It Properly

Carry your retainer’s case with you for use when you must remove the retainer to eat. Make it a habit to keep your retainer in the case when you’re not using it.  Retainers can be damaged if you put them in a pocket or purse and thrown away or forgotten if you wrap them in a napkin.

Keep It Away From Pets

Pets and retainers equal disaster! In fact, one of the leading causes of damaged retainers is pets. Dogs in particular are drawn to the smell of a retainer and can easily destroy it. Use the case for storage and keep this from happening.

Protect Your New Smile With Retainers After Braces or Invisalign

As you can see, retainers after braces or Invisalign is a crucial part of the treatment plan to straighten your teeth. Without it, your teeth can slip back into their former positions. Work with your orthodontist to get more info on exactly when to wear your retainer and how to care for it.

Our team here at Ortho One offers the best orthodontic care in South Jersey, along with the knowledge and guidance to maintain the smile you have always wanted.

Contact us now to ask any questions you may have about braces and retainers or to set an appointment. We want to be your trusted orthodontics team!