Orthodontic treatment is often an involved process that takes a few years and a lot of commitment. After orthodontic treatment is completed, patients are usually very pleased with their beautiful new smiles. To keep teeth looking beautiful after braces, however, there are steps must be taken. Failing to follow through with tooth care and maintenance after treatment has been completed can be a huge and costly mistake that can undermine the efforts of orthodontic treatment.
Wearing a Retainer
A retainer is a small device made out of plastic and metal that is designed to fit over the teeth. Depending on the case, orthodontists may recommend that the retainer be worn at night or for a certain number of hours per day. Instructions may change as time passes and changes in the teeth and mouth occur. It is important that patients carefully follow retainer instructions to maintain tooth placement after braces.
How Long Do Retainers Have to Be Worn?
It is common for patients to be instructed to wear retainers all day for several months after treatment, then overnight for years or indefinitely. Retainers may help to close gaps in between the teeth in addition to maintaining tooth alignment and stability. It is not possible for retainers to be worn for too long, so patients are better off continuing to wear the retainer if in doubt. Many patients are instructed to wear retainers nightly for the rest of their lives.
What if Teeth Shift?
Orthodontic treatment is not a permanent fix, as patients’ mouths undergo changes along with the rest of their bodies as they age and as teeth are used for chewing and eating. Some tooth shifting is to be expected, especially in the lower front teeth. However, more serious shifting can occur if later-than-expected growth occurs. Wearing retainers after braces will help to reduce tooth shifting, but it is important to contact an orthodontist if the changes seem more dramatic.
Dental Health and Tooth Care
While retainers can help to maintain tooth alignment, patients must brush and floss to keep the teeth looking white and clean and to maintain gum health. All efforts to keep teeth straight can be undermined if decay makes it necessary to remove teeth. A smile cannot remain beautiful for long if dental care is ignored.
Patients should visit a dentist and orthodontist regularly to keep their smiles beautiful long after braces. Dentists should be visited about once every six months for standards cleanings, examinations, and x-rays. Dentists may be able to spot orthodontic issues or relapses and recommend an orthodontic visit. Orthodontists should be visited about twice a year after successful orthodontic treatment or as recommended according to the treatment plan. If there are concerns about tooth shifting, patients should contact orthodontists to make an appointment.