Completed orthodontic treatment does not guarantee perfect teeth for the rest of your life. Teeth often try to move back to their original positions. This is why retainers are required to keep your teeth in their new positions. Regular retainer wear is necessary for the rest of your life, as your body is continually undergoing growth and maturation changes. Otherwise movement of your teeth will occur. Even with good retainer wear, your teeth may move slightly, however it will minimise the amount of movement.
Why do teeth move?
Your teeth are always moving to some extent. This occurs for a variety of different reasons including
- After orthodontic treatment, the teeth try to shift back to their original positions
- If you had extractions, the spaces will try to open again
- As we age, the shape of our jaw and soft tissues changes
- When we talk and eat we are putting pressures and forces on our teeth
- Other dental issues such as gum disease or grinding also cause teeth to move
Types of retainers
There are two main types of retainers that you may have
These are retainers, or plates, that you insert and remove. They are usually clear and look like a thin clear mouthguard, or similar to an aligner like Invisalign. Every patient will be issued with removable retainers that are custom made to fit your teeth after you have completed your orthodontic treatment. These are usually worn full-time (22hrs/day) for the first three months followed by “night – time (10hrs/day) for a “life-time” wear.
Fixed or bonded retainers
Also known as “semi-permanent” retainers, these are thin wires that are attached behind the lower six front teeth and sometimes the upper two or four front teeth. The advantage of this fixed retainer is that it is in place all the time, so does not depend on patient compliance.
These are usually placed on the lower six front teeth, as these are the teeth that tend to move as we age and due to the way teeth bite there is space for these. In some cases where the risk of tooth movement is higher, for example if there was a gap between the upper two front teeth before starting treatment, we may also recommend one be placed behind the upper front teeth.
If compliance with removable retainers is excellent, fixed may not be required. However, if compliance may be inconsistent, these can act as an “insurance policy” reducing the chance of the teeth moving. This is why we often place them in teenagers where compliance may be an issue.
They are known as semi-permanent as nothing in the oral cavity lasts forever, but they are designed to be there long-term. The first couple of years after treatment is the most critical as this is when the teeth will try to return to their original positions. Many patients keep the fixed retainers beyond this period, however they can be removed if requested.
Fixed retainers are not recommended if oral hygiene is poor, as it takes more time to floss beneath the wires.
Care and long-term retention
Before the braces are removed, our orthodontist, Dr Mustac, will discuss and advise you if fixed retainers are recommended for your case. All of our patients will be issued with removable retainers.
Care instructions will be issued on the day your are given your retainers.
We continue to follow our patients for at least one year after the completion of orthodontic treatment, to check retainers and monitor the result. However, it is important to note that if your retainer is not worn as prescribed, the teeth will move. This may require further orthodontic treatment that will incur an additional fee.
Remember, just like your hair never stops growing, your teeth never stop moving to some extent. This is why retention is lifelong!
Let us know if you have any further questions