Removing braces signals the start of retention, a part of orthodontic treatment that is just as important as the active or “braces” part of care in determining the ultimate success of your treatment. Once the teeth have been moved into their desired positions, time is required to permit stabilization of the teeth in surrounding soft tissues and bone. Soon after braces are removed, please schedule an appointment with your family dentist to check for dental decay or other problems and to get your teeth cleaned.
Period of Retention
Usually two years of actively following patients in retention is recommended. We ask that all orthodontic patients wear their retainers full-time, 24 hours a day, (except when eating or brushing your teeth) for the first 3 months after braces are removed. The retainers may be worn only at night for the next 9-21 months. The first two years are the most critical for retention wear to prevent adverse changes. During this “active retention” we ask to see patients with regularly scheduled appointments.
After the first year, we no longer send reminders to visit us, however, we do recommend that patients return for yearly evaluations. There will be a fee for those evaluation visits. Please feel free to call our office to schedule those appointments yourself. Patients with “wisdom teeth” should continue to have their family dentist follow their development and evaluate them for removal.
We strongly recommend that after the first two years, retainers still be worn periodically, at least twice a week, to make sure that they always fit. Try them in every week. Wear them more as required. As teeth may move or change when the body ages, it is important to always retain teeth throughout a lifetime to help prevent changes.
Changes in Your Teeth
Orthodontists are aware that there may be some changes in tooth position if retainers are not worn as directed or as retainer wear is diminished over time. The positions and fit of teeth change throughout our lives as a normal process of aging. Our goal in retention is to limit these changes and maintain a good functional and esthetic result by long-term wearing of retainers.
If retainers are removed for any reason they should be kept in the case we provide, this should prevent most instances of loss or breakage. Retainers may be brushed with toothpaste and soaked periodically in denture cleansers or mouth rinses. Never put the retainers in hot water or leave them out in the sun or next to hot objects (e.g., hairdryers, curling irons) as this may distort them and require replacement. Please don’t leave your retainers on lunch trays or wrap them up with napkins. Also keep them away from pets and out of your pockets, as they are fragile. DO NOT CHEW RETAINERS. There is a fee to replace all broken, lost or chewed retainers.
“Permanent” or Fixed Retainers
Occasionally, we bond or attach a thin wire behind some front teeth as a “permanent” fixed retainer. These require special cleaning as they collect food and plaque. They can be broken and you might not notice it until the teeth have already shifted. Therefore, it is important to wear a typical retainer over this bonded retainer as an “insurance” against moving teeth. There is a fee to replace broken fixed retainers after the first incident.
Please call us if you have lost or broken your retainer so that replacements may be fabricated immediately. Retainers are custom-made in an outside laboratory for each individual, so fees for replacement are due and payable upon their delivery (unfortunately, insurance companies may not cover replacement of lost or broken retainers). New impressions are required for removable retainers. With time, retainers may wear out, especially for patients who may grind their teeth; replacement of these retainers is recommended. Retainers are an inexpensive method to protect your investment in your orthodontic care.
During retention we routinely take a new set of X-rays and photographs of your teeth. These are used to evaluate treatment and retention. There is no additional fee for these records. However, if additional X-rays are required in the future to evaluate third molars (wisdom teeth), there will be a fee for this procedure.