After spending months or years behind braces, your teeth are straight, your smile is bright, and you’re ready to gain the confidence you’ve long anticipated. But all those tightenings, spacings, and mouth sores could be for nothing if you don’t wear your retainer after braces.

Why are retainers after braces important?

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Orthodontic retainers come in two forms – fixed and removable. Fixed retainers consist of a wire that travels along the back of the teeth, and is held in place by a type of cement. This type of retainer typically provides the best outcome, as it provides continuous dental support. Removable retainers span the curve along the outside of your upper or lower teeth. These retainers are held in by “hooks” that fit around your back teeth. While this type is easier to clean, it’s effectiveness is contingent on how much you wear it.

Each type is made specifically to fit your newly perfected teeth once your braces are removed. Your orthodontist will consider your unique needs when helping you choose which type of retainer presents the best option.

Once your braces come off, the bone and surrounding tissues need time to acclimate to their new position. During this time, dental relapse can occur. And your orthodontic retainer serves as your only defense in preventing your newly straightened teeth from returning to their old placement.

Generally speaking, your greatest chance of relapse occurs within the first month of removing your braces. If you have a removable retainer, you’ll want to wear it as constantly as possible during this time. The chance for relapse lessens after the first year of braces removal, but many orthodontists may recommend wearing retainers for the same length of time you wore braces.

How long will I be wearing retainers?

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Wearing retainers is something patients may do for, months, years, and in some cases, for life. It’s important to note that no two people are alike, even when it comes to dental needs. This means the amount of time you’ll be wearing your retained is based on your unique case.

Fixed retainers are usually worn for about five years before your orthodontist removes it. These retainers require a bit more maintenance care, much like you experienced while wearing braces. Since the wire spans across multiple teeth and isn’t removable, you’ll need to use a floss threader or other cleaning device. However, fixed retainers give you the greatest chance to avoid dental relapse and maintain the smile you invested in.

Most orthodontists recommend wearing removable retainers day and night for about three to six months. If your teeth show no signs of relapse, he or she may require you to wear your retainer only at night or for a few hours during the day. Removable retainers are easier to clean and inspect for damage, and they allow for easier teeth cleaning. However, you also risk losing your retainer if you aren’t wearing it full time.

Which orthodontic retainer is right for me?

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Retainers for braces patients are essential in completing your teeth-correcting treatment. But how do you choose between a fixed retainer and a removable retainer?

There is no “better” option when it comes to choosing an orthodontic retainer, as each presents its own unique pros and cons. Your orthodontist can evaluate your case and make the best recommendation for your dental needs.

Dunn Orthodontics has offices in Phoenix, Arcadia, and Litchfield Park. We specialize in helping patients achieve the smile of their dreams, along with providing the right maintenance care to retain their investment. Contact us today for a complete dental evaluation. Together, we can give you the smile (and the confidence) you deserve.