Orthodontic treatment is a prolonged procedure which requires patience and commitment from the patient, once completed with the Treatment it is very important to maintain the teeth in their new correct position. This is when you will be free of your Braces, but will be needing another appliance called a Retainer. As the name suggests it helps in retaining the teeth in its position. The phase with braces in the Active phase of Orthodontic treatment where the movement of teeth is seen while the second phase is the Retention phase.
Retention phase is as crucial as the phase with Braces, it involves the wearing of a Retainer which can be either removable or Fixed depending on the case decided by your Orthodontist. One question which we get asked commonly after removal of Braces is – As my Teeth are straight now, why do I need a Retainer? The answer to this is pretty straight forward, we have pulled and pushed the teeth into position and if the forces is removed suddenly they tend to revert back to their position. Teeth are held in position to the bone with the help of Periodontal Ligament fibers, which need several months to adjust to the new position. So given them time to heal we need to keep retainers to keep the teeth in a position which gives them time to heal.
Imagine a Rubber Band, if you pull it into your required position and then suddenly remove the force it reverts back to its original position. The same tends to happen with your Teeth, they tend to relapse into their original position or at least try to go back to their position leading to loss of alignment of the teeth.
Three Types of Orthodontic Retainers:
Hawley Removable Retainer: It is a removable type retainer which is made up of Acrylic (pink, clear or any color of your choice). It comes with Stainless steel wires used to hold on to the teeth and maintain the teeth in position. These can be removed when going outside or eating. Can be tightened or repaired when necessary, long lasting, helps the bite to settle in position comfortably. But it has its own minor disadvantages – Can allow minor movements of teeth if the metal wires becomes loose, a wire is visible on the labial surface of the front teeth while being worn.
Essix Retainer or Clear Plastic Removable Retainer: Protects teeth against wear and grinding, holds teeth in the exact position to which they were moved, aesthetic as they are clear and invisible, cheaper, you can bring back the teeth into position in case of very minor movements. The disadvantages are that they need replacement in patients who tend to grind their teeth, easily lost.
Bonded Lingual Fixed Retainer: Patient compliance is the best as they are always fixed and cannot be removed. Can last for years if hygiene is maintained. But as they are fixed lingualy it becomes difficult to brush and floss making them difficult to maintain.
Retainers should be used anywhere from 6 months to years depending on the type of Mal-Occlusion you had and also the type of Retainer being used. Make sure to wear the retainer at all times possible and only remove them while eating. Clean or Brush your Retainer properly once a day. It takes time to get adjusted to the retainer so give it some time to be able to speak properly. Stop using the Retainer only when your Orthodontist says so. Will be posting a separate Article on – How to maintain Orthodontic Retainers.