Once braces have been removed (and sometimes before) patients are required to wear an orthodontic retainer, to make sure their teeth stay in their new position. Retainers come in removable and fixed options, and are a very important part of orthodontic treatment. These devices are custom made to fit your mouth, and can be made of a clear plastic material or wires. Sometimes they can also be used before the braces are mounted, to help gums adjust to the realigning of the teeth. Usually patients are told to wear these devices during the night, but sometimes they are required to wear them initially during the day as well.
There are three types of orthodontic retainers. The Hawley retainer, a metal wire attached to a plastic arch, is by far the most common. Second in popularity is the vacuum-formed retainer, a plastic moulded insert. In only the most severe of cases your dentist may decide a fixed retainer, a metal wire cemented along the inside of the teeth, is necessary to prevent any return to the previous orthodontic state.
A retainer really does solidify the new position of your teeth. Patients who do not wear retainers as directed by their orthodontist often experience slippage; their teeth start to move back to where they were before treatment. Keeping up with retainer use ensures that your months or years of orthodontic treatment really do last a lifetime. So while you don’t absolutely have to listen to your dentist, it might be a good idea.
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