Orthodontic patients who have competed the tooth realignment process and are ready to have their braces removed have good cause to celebrate, but they also need to begin the retention phase of orthodontic treatment. This phase will normally last at least two years, though the length can vary significantly from patient to patient.
Wearing retainers after braces, regardless of whether the braces were metal, ceramic, or Invisalign, will help retain the work that your braces accomplished and prevent your teeth from migrating back to their original misaligned positions. Thus, wearing retainers after braces is not negotiable if you want to keep that beautiful smile you fought so hard and long to obtain.
What About Removable Retainers?
There are two types of retainers: permanent, also called bonded or lingual, and removable.
Removable retainers come in many varieties, including metal models and Invisalign acrylic VIVERA retainers, which are worn for three months at a time. With all removable retainers, you need to take the retainer out before sleeping, eating, or engaging in strenuous exercise/contact sports.
The advantages of removable retainers are that they are easy to clean and easy to dispose of once your post-braces retention phase ends. However, metal removable retainers are relatively visible in your mouth, covering up part of the smile your braces worked so hard to perfect.
Why Use Permanent Retainers?
Permanent retainers are bonded with dental glue to the back side of two or more of your teeth. This makes them far less visible than removable retainers. The retainers consist of a flexible stainless steel wire that exerts enough pressure to prevent teeth from drifting out of position but without being uncomfortable in your mouth.
Because permanent retainers are always in place, they are considered to be more effective than removable retainers in most situations. Children are especially good candidates for permanent retainers since parents don’t have to worry that their child will lose or forget the retainer. Additionally, young kids who still have some baby teeth will not need to replace a permanent retainer when new permanent teeth come in.
Teenagers generally should use permanent retainers because their jawbones will continue to grow into their early 20s, and permanent retainers are flexible enough to adjust to these changes. Finally, adults and others with spacing problems and certain other dental issues will also fare far better with permanent retainers than with removable ones.
Learning to Care for Your Retainer
It is true that brushing, and especially flossing, is more difficult with permanent retainers, but your dentist will instruct you on the proper method and introduce you to some special cleaning instruments to help. You will soon learn to floss correctly between each tooth to which your retainers are attached, and it will become routine.
You will also need to have regular dental exams and cleanings during your retaining phase, and you should avoid certain hard foods. But overall, there are not many inconveniences or restrictions, and the benefits far outweigh the few that there are.
Find Out Which Option Is Right for You
Orthodontic patients normally need retainers after braces for a minimum of two years, and often for much longer. While removable retainers have some advantages and work well in certain situations, permanent retainers generally are recommended as the more effective long-term method in most cases. Lack of visibility, the impossibility of losing/forgetting them, and their ability to adjust to jaw growth/baby tooth loss are among the most important benefits of permanent retainers.