We get it: you’ve had braces for years or aligners for months and you’re excited about getting them removed – the last thing you want to do is wear another orthodontic appliance.
Wearing a retainer after orthodontic treatment is critical for maintaining your new smile. In fact, it is the only guaranteed way of keeping your teeth in place.
How Retainers Work to Maintain Your Straight Teeth
Braces or aligners were only the first step in your orthodontic journey. Braces and aligners effectively straighten teeth by applying gentle pressure to push the teeth in a specified direction. As the teeth move, the bone that supports them changes shape.
Gum tissue surrounds and supports your teeth. Just below the gum tissue is the periodontal membrane, which is fleshy tissue that sits between the tooth and the tooth socket. The periodontal membrane holds the tooth in place, attaches it to adjacent teeth, and allows the tooth to resist the stresses of chewing. Next to the periodontal membrane sits the alveolar bone, which is the ridge of bone that contains the tooth sockets that hold the teeth.
The pressure that braces and aligners apply to teeth causes the periodontal membrane to break down on one side of the tooth and build back up on the other side. Breakdown of the periodontal membrane loosens the tooth, which makes it easier to move, and buildup of periodontal membrane supports the tooth in its new position. Dentists refer to this as bone remodeling.
The process of moving teeth is slow – teeth move about a millimeter per month. The process of bone remodeling is even slower, with the breakdown process taking about 72 hours to get going and the rebuilding process taking about 90 days.
After the rebuilding process is complete, it takes another ten months for the new periodontal membrane to stabilize enough to hold the tooth in one spot. During the stabilization period, the teeth can actually drift out of place again, completely undoing the time, money and effort you put into wearing braces or an aligner. Worn after orthodontic treatment is complete, retainers keep teeth from drifting as the periodontal membrane stabilizes.
What Is a Dental Retainer Anyway?
A dental retainer is a piece of plastic or metal that helps your teeth stay in their new position after you stop wearing braces or an aligner. Dental retainers can be removable so you can take them out, or fixed permanently in place.
There are two main types of retainers: removable and fixed. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Removable retainers usually combine a wire going across the front of your teeth, held in place by a combination of acrylic material and clasps on your back teeth. Removable retainers make it easier to clean your teeth, but they are also easy to forget – you will have to remember to put your retainer back in.
Fixed retainers usually consist of a thin wire that stretches across the back of the upper or lower teeth. Acrylic material and hooks on the back teeth hold the retainer in place. Fixed retainers are tougher to clean around, requiring the use of a floss threader or similar cleaning device to get into the small spaces between the retainer and teeth, but because they hold the teeth in perfect formation 24/7, they provide a better outcome.
Because your smile is unlike any other, Dr. Laster will custom-make your dental retainer. Dr. Laster will also provide you with specific instructions on how long to wear it and when. For example, you might have to wear your retainer all day for three months then wear it only at night. Or your orthodontist might recommend that you wear your retainer only at night, but wear it nightly for more than a year.
Retainers for Adults and Kids at Laster Orthodontics
Dr. Laster uses cutting edge technology, such as SureSmile and our iTero Scanner, to provide better smiles in less time. The advanced technology of SureSmile allows Dr. Laster to make periodic adjustments using high-tech archwires and computer software, which eliminates the need for frequent orthodontic visits. Laster Orthodontics uses the iTero Scanner instead of gooey oral paste to build computer-generated models of patients’ teeth; Dr. Laster then feeds these impressions into a simulator to create pictures of what your smile will look like before, during and after orthodontic treatment. Dr. Laster uses this advanced dental technology to help improve your smile faster.
Dr. Laster puts as much effort in creating a retainer as he does in planning the rest of your orthodontic treatment. Laster Orthodontics uses the same advanced technology to create new impressions of your teeth for your retainer. Once your retainer is ready, you will return to our office to receive your new fixed or removable retainer.
The process of installing a fixed retainer involves fitting the retainer to your teeth so that it does not show when you smile or talk, and cementing the retainer in place. In some cases, Dr. Laster will cement the retainer to each tooth; in other cases, the orthodontist will affix it to the teeth at the ends of the retainer.
When you pick up your removable retainer, Dr. Laster will provide instructions on how to wear, insert, and remove it properly. For best results, wear the retainer according to Dr. Laster’s instructions.
Dr. Laster is an expert orthodontist who has helped thousands of patients of all ages get the smile they dreamed about with braces and aligners. Each patient we see is unique and special, so we design a personalized teeth straightening plan that helps every patient achieve and maintain an appealing smile. Contact Dr. Laster today – we are happy to talk with you about your smile during a free consultation.
At Laster Orthodontics, we help families develop healthy, life-changing smiles using customized treatments, cutting-edge technologies, and caring relationships. Our individualized treatment plans help our patients achieve their perfect smile in the quickest, most painless way possible by utilizing a wide range of options from traditional braces to propel accelerated treatment to Dr. Laster's in-house aligner program, Laster Perfect Smile. With three locations throughout the Triangle Area, we create life-changing smiles every day.