Why do I need to wear a retainer?

Our entire team at Beim Orthodontics has loved watching you and your smile transform these past months. Getting to know you and your family as you allow us to provide you with life-changing oral healthcare is an honor we don’t take lightly. 

Now that we’ve removed your braces or finished the last phase of your clear aligners treatment, it’s time to get you fitted for your retainer(s). If you’re confused about the purpose of retainers and why you need one, don’t worry, you’re not alone! To help you feel motivated and excited about this next part of treatment, we’re going to tell you a little bit about retainers. 

What is active treatment?

Before discussing the orthodontic appliance, we will first talk about what happens in your mouth during active treatment. 

Active treatment is when we apply gentle pressure to your teeth to move them. When you have braces or clear aligners, that’s considered active treatment because we are actively adjusting your alignment. This phase of treatment ends when you and Dr. Beim are satisfied with the placements of your teeth. To prevent further progression, we will remove your braces or stop clear aligner wear. 

What is retention?

The pressure loosens the bones and ligaments that attach your teeth to the jaw. Unfortunately, when we announce the end of your orthodontic appliance use, your bones and ligaments do not instantly resolidify. Your mouth needs a little more time to stabilize! 

Retention is the phase of holding your teeth in place as the mouth adjusts. That’s what your retainer is for!

What is a retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that retains the teeth in place as the mouth stabilizes. 

Retainers can be removable, like the Hawley or Essix styles, or fixed. Patients can and should remove removable retainers for oral hygiene, retainer maintenance, and eating and drinking. Fixed retainers are glued to the back of the teeth and can only be removed by an orthodontic professional, like our very own Dr. Beim.

Removable retainers allow patients more flexibility in their lifestyle than fixed retainers do. For example, those with a removable retainer don’t have food restrictions because the device is not in the way. Their oral hygiene routine is also less complex because they don’t have to maneuver around the unmovable metal. On the other hand, wearers of a fixed retainer don’t have the risk of losing or forgetting to wear theirs.

Both types have their advantages. Dr. Beim will help you pick the one with the highest chances of success during your retention period.  

What happens if you don’t wear your removable retainer?

Your teeth have location memories; no matter how much time passes, they will remember where they once were. Because they don’t know why they’ve moved (nor can we tell them), they will try to return to their original locations. While the mouth is still soft and easily influenced is the perfect opportunity for your teeth to make their changes. This backward shift is called regression, and it takes as little as one day for a noticeable difference to occur! If your teeth move enough, Dr. Beim might recommend a restart in active treatment. You don’t want all your hard work to be for nothing! Wear your retainer as instructed to maintain your new beautiful alignment for as long as possible.

How long do you need to wear it for?

Patients with a fixed retainer should discuss its longevity and duration of use with Dr. Beim.

Those with a removable retainer will likely need to wear them for twenty-four-seven during the first few months (except during the previously mentioned exceptions). Dr. Beim will slowly decrease that time. However, there is unlikely to be a time when you don’t need your retainer because teeth can shift for multiple reasons at any time in life. You will probably need your retainer for the rest of your life, though how much you need it could be decreased all the way down to only a couple of nights a week!

Why do I need to wear a retainer?Visit us at Beim Orthodontics to learn more!

Transitioning into the retention period can be disappointing after the excitement of finishing active treatment and seeing your new smile without anything in the way. But Beim Orthodontics has all the information and resources to make it as pleasant, comfortable, and easy as possible. 

If you are a new patient and want to learn more about our treatment options, you can schedule a free consultation with us! For those extra busy families, we also offer virtual consultations. If you are a current patient with questions about your retainer or are looking to begin the discussion of your transition from active to retention, contact us today! We love talking about orthodontics at every stage of treatment and can’t wait to help you create the smile you dream of. 

The sooner you start, the sooner you can feel proud of your smile, so come see us soon!