Posts for tag: retainers
After months of wearing braces, the big day has arrived — they’re finally off! Your teeth have been realigned and your smile is dazzling. You’re finished with orthodontic treatment, right?
Not quite — because if you want to keep your new smile you have one more treatment phase to go — wearing a retainer. Without this phase there’s a distinct possibility you could lose all the time, effort and expense of braces because your teeth could revert to their previous position.
To understand why, we have to consider how teeth can move in the first place. Although it may seem like your teeth are rigidly fastened to the jawbone, they’re actually held in place by the periodontal ligament, a strong, elastic gum tissue that lies between the teeth and the bone. Tiny fibers from the ligament attach to the teeth on one side and to the bone in a similar manner on the other side.
When pressure is applied to the tooth as happens with braces, the bone around the side of the tooth in the direction of the force will begin to dissolve (resorb), allowing the tooth to move in that direction. New bone will then build up on the other side to stabilize the tooth. Once the pressure is removed (when we take the braces off), there’s a tendency for the teeth, bone and gums to “remember” the old position and try to revert back.
The answer is a removable mouth appliance known as a retainer. Custom-designed to fit the teeth’s new position, the retainer helps hold the teeth in place until the bone completely sets around them. In the beginning, you may need to wear the retainer around the clock and then later only at night while you sleep. While you may only need to wear it for a few months (especially if you’re an adolescent or young adult) some patients may need to wear some form of retainer indefinitely. Your orthodontist will advise you how long depending on your individual situation.
While retainers may seem like an inconvenience, they’re extremely important for keeping or “retaining” the teeth in their new and better position. Following through on this important phase of treatment will help ensure you’ll keep your new smile for a long time to come.
If you would like more information on retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Why Orthodontic Retainers?”
Finally: Your braces are off! Break out the taffy, bubble gum, corn on the cob... and... whoa!!... the retainer?
Yes, the retainer. As the name implies, this simple device will ensure that your pearly whites remain in the new, desired position you've worked so diligently to achieve. Here's why:
The same physiological properties that allow your teeth to move when you're wearing braces are always at work — braces simply direct that movability in controlled ways. Teeth are not set into your jaw bone like posts fixed in concrete; rather, the root portion is attached to the bone by elastic periodontal (peri – around; odont – tooth) ligaments that permit micromovement of teeth all the time. The periodontal tissues are living; therefore, they are always changing and “remodeling” (just as hair grows, skin peels, etc.) When a light orthodontic force is placed on a tooth the following processes occur:
- on the pulling or tension side, the periodontal ligament will activate bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) to deposit new bone to fill in the area from where the tooth was previously, and
- on the pressure side, the periodontal ligament will activate bone-resorbing cells (osteoclasts) to remove bone allowing the tooth to move in that direction.
Visualize drawing your hand forward through water: The water parts in front of your hand and fills in behind it.
Once your teeth are in their desired position and your braces are removed, your teeth will tend to return to their old position if they are not stabilized or “retained” in their new one long enough for the bone and ligament to re-form and mature around them. This can take several months. In addition, orthodontic treatment stretches collagen fibers in gum tissues to some extent, contributing to the forces that tend to shift teeth back in the direction from which they came. The gum tissues will continue to exert this pressure until these tissues remodel. This can take longer than the bone and ligament stabilization, as collagen cells reorganize at a much slower rate.
Types of Retainers
The type of retainer you will use, how frequently and for how long will depend on your unique situation. The most familiar type of retainer is removable and one you may not have to wear all the time, at least after the first couple of months. In cases where the retainer is going to be needed for a long-term period, a common alternative is to have thin retainer wires bonded to the inside surfaces of the front teeth so they don't show.
Considering how much time, effort, and sometimes expense is required in improving your smile, the retainer is your assurance that it was all well spent. Even people getting a comparatively simple pedicure/manicure don't leave the salon without letting the polish dry!
If you would like more information about orthodontics and retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”
We'd like to take a moment to clarify why it is so important to wear the retainer(s) given to you after your orthodontic treatment. These devices, which literally “retain” your teeth in their new and improved positions, are not just for kids. Anyone who has recently had their teeth moved through orthodontics needs to wear them for the prescribed length of time. Here's why:
Though your teeth may now look perfectly aligned, research has shown that there is no “right” position for your teeth to be in that can assure they don't move again — no matter what age you are when treated for malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite). In fact, most people will see changes to their bite and tooth alignment as they get older, with or without orthodontic treatment.
For one thing, there is a natural tendency for bottom front teeth to undergo a gradual “uprighting” with age. This can cause them to crowd as they move toward the tongue. And it happens regardless of whether wisdom teeth are present.
In the case of teeth that have been straightened recently, a type of “memory” of their original position may cause them to drift back to it. This tendency gradually lessens, but it may be a problem for up to 18 months.
That's why it's crucial to follow our instructions for wearing retainers. Keep in mind that the plan we have given you is designed to achieve the best possible results in your individual case. Some people will need to wear retainers 24 hours per day, some just at night, and still others on an as-needed basis. You may have received a removable retainer or one that is secured to the back of your teeth. The important thing is to secure the results you've worked so hard to achieve.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “/?&issue=issue18&startid=56" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'top=1,left=1,width='+screen.availWidth+',height='+screen.availHeight+',toolbar=no,location=no,location=0,directories=no,status=yes,menubar=no,scrollbars=yes,resizable=yes');return false;">The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”