After having your teeth misalignments corrected, giving you a great smile, you want to maintain your new appearance and avoid having more orthodontic procedures. However, your body’s natural reaction may be to reverse the changes made through orthodontic treatment, meaning that you require additional reinforcement to prevent the reversion of your teeth positions. Subsequently, wearing retainers is necessary after orthodontic treatment, as they serve to hold and retain teeth in their new position. It is therefore important to learn of the various types of retainers, as well as after-care guidelines to help you uphold your new dental arrangement.

Normally, your orthodontist will be the one to provide additional services for fitting your retainers. This means that he/she will be your consultant during the entire treatment process and after removing the braces. As a result, we recommend partnering with a reliable orthodontist from the start, as this will save you from receiving substandard treatment that may easily reverse itself with time. Partnering with Washington Dental will help you receive high-quality orthodontic services available for our clients in Lomita, California. By visiting our clinic, you will receive beneficial dental care from some of the most experienced orthodontists in the area. We are happy to provide support and guidelines on retainers to you upon making consultations at any time.

The Role of Retainers in Orthodontic Treatment

Anyone who has to wear retainers must first undergo orthodontic treatment that involves realigning your teeth. This occurs in various ways depending on the initial diagnosed problem. Typically, patients may suffer from varying misalignment conditions that are triggered by various causes.

For example, genetics may lead to a small jaw, resulting in overcrowded teeth. For some, the jaws and teeth may all be misaligned leading to overbites, underbites, and crossbites. Another example includes repetitive habits like thumb sucking or pushing teeth using your tongue. These habits may lead to tooth protrusion, making it hard to close your mouth comfortably.

Your dentist corrects these conditions using various orthodontic appliances like braces and Invisalign. After the condition is reversed and your teeth fit a new alignment, your dentist needs to retain them in these positions to avoid the risk of having your teeth move back to old slots. Therefore, retainers serve the important role of securing your teeth into their desired position until they settle in completely.

Your teeth are prone to moving to their original positions for several reasons. Firstly, the bone tissue around the moved teeth requires some time to fully develop again, owing to the dislocation from their naturally occurring position. Since bone tissue takes a longer time to develop, leaving your teeth without retainers to reinforce their new position can cause the developing bone mass to stop, and instead revert to the old position.

Secondly, some patients have strong genetic influences that may lead to unforeseen teeth changes, even after undergoing orthodontic treatment. For example, your jawbone and gums may still develop after treatment, especially for younger patients who are still growing and developing their general body mass. The increase in bone mass is sufficient to dislocate teeth that were initially positioned using braces or Invisalign.

Thus, retainers are necessary to ensure that the new dental structure remains constant despite ongoing body development. By holding the teeth in place, you will still experience normal growth and uphold the aesthetic results created from orthodontic appliances.

Studies have also shown that your lower incisors are more prone to movement compared to other types of teeth. This may be because they are actively involved in chewing, biting, and tongue contact when your mouth is at rest. Your dentist considers these factors when creating retainers for your use, in the interest of upholding their position.

Further, continuous chewing and biting may impose some force on your teeth, making them move from their positions if no retainers are used. Since eating is an inevitable activity, the best option is to have the retainers fixed to minimize the movement range of your new teeth. Overall, the difference that retainers create is significant compared to patients who choose not to follow up their treatment using these appliances.

Types of Retainers Available for Treatment

Upon visiting your dentist for a follow-up on your post-orthodontic treatment, he/she will provide more information on the available retainers for your use. Each of the options provides some benefits and disadvantages, depending on your preferences. Thus, it is important to speak to your dentist about your likes and dislikes, as well as your ability to follow issued guidelines. The three types of retainers are:

  1. Hawley Retainers

The first and most common type of retainer is the Howley type. Their design is created to fit your mouth comfortably by mimicking the structures and teeth placement. Functionality applies through the wires bound to the plastic components in the retainer. You will wear the appliance and have your teeth retained by the wires as they settle into their new position.

Additionally, Hawley retainers are removable and have a plastic base that rests on the roof and base of the mouth. Most designs resemble denture appliances because of how you wear and remove them. However, some significant distinctions between the two mark them apart. For example, the retainers have a firm plastic material to hold the retaining wires, while dentures have synthetic crowns to serve as teeth.

Hawley retainers are the most traditional appliances used in the treatment process, so their popularity is declining. Nevertheless, they remain a reliable option for patients seeking post-orthodontic treatment.

Benefits of Hawley Retainers

Some advantages of this type of retainers include:

They are Sturdy

Thanks to the plastic used in creating the complete retainer model, you will benefit from the sturdy build that can withstand the reasonable force applied to it. Additionally, the sturdiness is useful in training your jawbone and surrounding tissue to retain their new positions. Subsequently, teeth drifting is less likely compared to other types of retainers.

Your Orthodontist Can Adjust Wires In Case of Teeth Shifting

Sometimes, your teeth may adjust differently, despite your dentist's predictions. This occurs because of genetics, repetitive habits, or new injuries as mentioned above. Hence, making adjustments to the retainers becomes necessary, as your teeth will remain in their position as expected.

To avoid having to change your appliances, your dentist can adjust the wire to move or retain the teeth in the required position. The process prevents additional costs and time-consuming procedures to maintain your teeth positions.

Disadvantages of Hawley Retainers

Some demerits include:

They Interfere with Your Speech

The first few weeks of wearing Hawley retainers are often challenging, primarily because of the dramatic change in your pronunciation. The differences occur from the wide plastic plate that sits on the roof of your mouth, which is a key part of speech formation. Nevertheless, using the retainers continuously makes you accustomed to the appliance, so your speech will return to normal.

You Can Easily Lose or Damage the Retainers

Removing your Hawley Retainers is essential to uphold oral hygiene. However, this could also increase the chances of losing your appliances or damaging them if not stored safely. Most accidents occur when patients are not keen on wearing their appliances as prescribed, meaning that they are likely to leave them unattended.

  1. Clear Retainers

The first type of retainers available for treatment is called Essix or clear retainers. They provide support and prevent your teeth from moving by coating the entire tooth structure. Their design resembles Invisalign, in that it covers all your teeth and holds them in place.

Clear retainers are beneficial for patients who prefer being able to remove them at their convenience. Since they are also clear, they are less recognizable and are therefore an excellent option for people who do not like attention drawn to them.

The main procedure includes taking study models of your teeth after completing orthodontic treatment. Since you will have already encountered the process when preparing for braces or Invisalign treatment, you will know what to expect. We use the dental mold to replicate your teeth arrangement, then use the dimensions on the study impressions to create clear retainers.

When the retainers cover your teeth enamels, drifting becomes more difficult, promoting the retention of your oral aesthetic look. However, you can only maintain this by wearing your retainers constantly, until your dentist advises you otherwise.

Advantages of Clear Retainers

While clear retainers are not always the main choice for some patients, they provide several advantages that are worth considering. They include:

They Do Not Change Your Speech Patterns

Compared to Hawley retainers, clear ones will not interfere with your speech, primarily because they do not obstruct the tongue. Their design covers only the teeth surfaces, so you can enunciate your words normally. On top of that, you can secure them well in the teeth to prevent them from raising as you speak. However, this should not normally happen because the study models guide your dentist on the most accurate fit for your mouth.

Naturally, the first few days may be difficult for you, as the retainers feel new in the mouth. However, most patients react by producing more saliva than usual, compared to slurred speech. Over time, you will regain your ability to produce saliva normally as you adjust to the retainers.

They are a Discrete Form of Treatment

Most patients prefer receiving orthodontic treatment discreetly based on various reasons. For example, people who work as public figures or in restrictive corporate environments will request non-noticeable retainers to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Thanks to the clear type of plastic used in formulating Essix retainers, you can expect a discrete form of treatment that is less noticeable compared to Hawley retainers. As a result, you can continue with your normal life without having to explain the reason behind wearing retainers. Nonetheless, you should remember that since clear retainers are removable, your discreteness may be compromised when you have to remove them in public.

Disadvantages of Clear Retainers

Sometimes, advantages may turn to disadvantages based on the deterioration of the plastic products used to create clear retainers. Some demerits include:

The Retainers May Discolour Over Time

If you like having colored drinks, you should be aware of the possible discoloration that occurs to the retainers over time. This is especially true for patients who consume coffee frequently, along with other brightly colored juices and sodas. Red wine is also notorious for causing discoloration in the retainers.

Consequently, the original clear appearance changes into the dominant color causing discoloration. Although the discoloration may be inevitable with prolonged use of clear retainers, taking care of your oral hygiene will slow down this process and give you value for your money.

Bacteria Accumulates Easily In the Retainers

Based on the design of the clear retainer, some food particles and liquids are easily trapped in the appliances. Subsequently, your teeth are exposed to potential oral diseases arising from harmful microbes. Furthermore, the improper cleaning of retainers may cause additional problems like teeth discoloration and additional cavities.

Over time, failure to have the conditions treated leads to severe tooth decay and other periodontal diseases. This may require surgical remedies to fix the ongoing problems, increasing the medical costs to have these procedures done.

Bonded Retainers

The third option is bonded or fixed retainers that are stuck at the back of your lower front teeth using special dental adhesive. These teeth are targeted because they are potentially the most affected when movements begin. As a result, the bonded retainers create enough pulling force to maintain your teeth in their required positions without having other major adjustments done.

Bonded retainers are a modern alternative to the first two, and are more widely used because of the advantages they provide. Firstly, their semi-permanent positioning makes your work easier, as you do not have to worry about losing or damaging them. As long as the adhesive binds them behind your front lower teeth, you do not have to worry about misalignment.

Secondly, they also provide a discrete form of treatment as they are barely visible to people around you. The short wire sits behind your teeth, so you can undertake your daily activities without much attention. You should also note that the small wire does not affect your speech, as it does not interfere with your tongue movement when talking.

However, some demerits of using bonded retainers include the cleaning process. Most patients complain about the build-up of plaque behind the teeth because the wire restricts access to the enamel. Despite this, you can use small brushes to reach those areas and clean your teeth normally.

What to Do If Your Teeth Move Years After Orthodontic Treatment

In some cases, patients may have received orthodontic services a long time ago. This means that some could not access post-orthodontic services like wearing retainers. As a result, teeth moving out of their positions is not uncommon, especially for older patients who have lived without orthodontic appliances for years.

If you notice that your teeth are returning to their original positions before treatment, or that they are generally moving out of place, we recommend contacting your dentist for advice. He/she can recommend a non-invasive form of treatment that includes touching up these minor misalignments.

Most treatment options include using retainers to introduce minimal force on the misaligned teeth. The tension can either push or pull the teeth back into position, meaning that realignment will gradually occur. During this ‘touch-up’ period, your dentist will schedule several appointments to monitor the progress and change the treatment procedure, if necessary.

Once the dentist verifies that your teeth are back to the required position, your treatment will be complete and you can have the retainers removed. However, some cases may require continuous reinforcement of the teeth, especially if your dentist notices a recurrent misalignment. If this is the concluded diagnosis, you may have to wear retainers for a longer duration lasting for up to twenty years.

Important Tips that Make Treatment Successful

Upon having your retainers fixed, your dentist will provide several tips and guidelines to promote consistent wear. Moreover, your dentist will provide useful hygiene and maintenance tips that save you from making multiple trips to the clinic. Some important pointers that will help you maintain your results include:

Attending All Scheduled Appointments is Necessary

Even though you will have completed your orthodontic treatment, your dentist may still require several follow-up sessions. These appointments are important because they allow your dentist to determine whether the specific type of input retainers are working.

Furthermore, making time to see your dentist will help him/her identify any other underlying issues that take time to develop. For example, the new retainers may cause several injuries in your inner lip and tongue, leaving some parts of the flesh exposed to germs. Consequently, the exposed areas can develop infections if not well handled. Thanks to an examination conducted during your appointment, the condition can be managed before it develops into a severe infection.

You Play a Role in Maintaining your Teeth Alignment

Patients who opt for Hawley or Essix retainers have the liberty to remove them at any time, despite the dentist's directives to wear them for specified periods. In some cases, you may intend to remove them only for cleaning purposes, but forget to wear them afterward. As a result, you will increase the chances of having misalignment, coupled with the possibility of losing or damaging your retainers.

For patients who find it difficult to wear retainers throughout, we recommend reaching your dentist for several remedies. By doing this, you train your mind to accommodate the retainers faster compared to removing them when feeling uncomfortable. In return, your teeth are continuously held in position and no reversion will occur.

Following the Dentist's Recommendations is Advisable

As mentioned, your teeth take some time before acclimation to their new positions. This means that you should wear your retainers consistently to strengthen the surrounding bone and teeth as you bite, chew, and speak. Your dentist can estimate the amount of time it will take before you can substitute the frequency of wearing retainers with wearing them fewer times.

However, that means that you should be willing to follow the initial instructions provided, despite it being slightly uncomfortable to do so. For example, patients with Hawley retainers have to deal with the invasive feeling they create, as well as the interference with speech. Nevertheless, these effects fade with the prolonged wearing of retainers, and your dentist is available for assistance in case of injuries.

Upholding High Standards of Hygiene

Finally, you should aim to uphold high standards of oral hygiene after receiving your retainers. This includes brushing at least twice a day or after every meal where possible. If you have Essix or Hawley retainers, upholding high hygiene standards is easy, as you can remove the appliances and clean your teeth normally. Afterward, you can also clean the retainers using a toothbrush and toothpaste.

However, bonded retainers can be harder to clean because of the small space left between the retainer wire and your teeth. Most people struggle with inserting their toothbrush bristles in between the small spaces, leaving room for the development of plaque, bacteria, and other undesirable conditions.

Your dentist can recommend using an interdental toothbrush to scrub the hard-to-reach areas. Since the brush is small and the bristles are designed vertically, cleaning your teeth is easier, regardless of the type of retainers you have.

Contact an Orthodontist Near Me

After spending a lot of time and expenses for orthodontic treatment, you want to ensure that your results remain as desired, giving you a great smile and facial structure. However, natural processes lead to the inevitable movement of teeth after your dentist completes treatment using braces or Invisalign. Therefore, you require additional support to maintain your teeth in their aesthetic position. By having retainers curated for you, you will secure your successful orthodontic results and prevent recurrent treatment. Choosing the best retainers for you will also have a comfortable duration as your teeth adapt into their new positions.

With the help of Washington Dental orthodontists, your teeth can retain their arrangement after treatment with minimal discomfort and regression of results. Our team is well trained, equipping us with the best skills in providing the most suitable options for each patient. Moreover, we are happy to provide further guidance, consultation, and replacement of appliances in case of accidents if you are in Lomita, California.Contact us today at 310-326-5183 for more information on retainers after orthodontic treatment.