Getting your braces off is definitely a cause for celebration. You can finally enjoy your new smile after all that work and effort! But getting your braces off isn’t the end of treatment. Once your braces come off, you will enter the retention period of treatment.
During the retention period, you will be given a retainer to wear for at least 22 hours a day, for at least 24 months. After the retention period, you can wear your retainer less, going from nightly to only a few nights a week.
If you don’t wear your retainer, your teeth might revert to their former position, and you will lose the progress made. Teeth aren’t set in the jawbone, instead, they are held in place by a network of fibers called periodontal ligaments. After teeth have been moved, it takes several months for the periodontal ligament to support and adjust to new positions of the teeth. When you wear your retainer, you are supporting the periodontal ligaments and making sure that your teeth stay exactly where you want them.
In most cases, you will be fitted for a retainer right after your braces come off, and it will be made and prepared for you in office. There are three types of retainers:
- Hawley retainer
The most popular and durable type of retainer, the Hawley retainer is designed with a thin, tongue-shaped mold that holds a wire across your teeth to keep them in place.
- Clear plastic retainer
These look and feel like clear aligners. They are made from plastic to fit exactly over your teeth and secure them.
- Fixed bonded retainer
A fixed bonded retainer is typically used on the front bottom teeth. A small wire is cemented to the tongue side of the teeth to keep them in place.
It’s important to clean your retainers. For Hawley retainers, you can brush them with a regular toothbrush. For clear plastic retainers, denture cleaner might be the best option. Fixed retainers have similar cleaning methods to braces, and you’ll likely need special tools to floss underneath the wire.
It’s also very important to carry your retainer case with you. So often, retainers are lost in a napkin and accidentally discarded. Retainers must also be kept away from very hot water, as that can warp them. With proper care, a retainer can help you keep your new smile.