Since our last blog focused on reasons to start orthodontic treatment, I decided to dedicate this months blog to the end of treatment.
On the day when braces come off, many people feel that their orthodontic treatment is over. However, although they give the appearance of being stable and unmoving, teeth and their surrounding structures (gums, bone, and ligaments) are living tissues and are actually in a constant state of change. Like I explain to all of my patients during the consultation appointment: in the same way I am able to move your teeth with braces, your cheeks, tongue, lips, chewing, talking, and many other factors all place forces on your teeth. Over time, these forces can cause our hard earned new smile to change, and, although we rarely return to where we began, you will notice spaces return, teeth to crowd, bites shifting, etc. If neglected for too long, the teeth can move to a point where orthodontic treatment has to be done a second time (a big time waste of your time and money!).
So for all of our active patients/parents of active patients, imagine that today is the day that your treatment comes to an end. Youve had your final adjustment, and Dr. Lee or I tell you that at the next appointment you will get your braces (or attachments for our Invisalign patients) taken off. Is there any hope that your beautiful new Star Smile will last?!?!?
Never fear, thats why we give you a set of retainers!
Retainers are orthodontic appliances individually fabricated to maintain your result. To put that more plainly, retainers retain your smile (clever name, rightJ). There are many different designs for retainers, but in our office they all break down into two main kinds: removable and fixed. Removable retainers can be taken in and out of the mouth. We offer two different varieties of removable retainers: Hawleys and Essix. Fixed retainers, are bonded to the backs of specific teeth in the mouth, and cannot be removed without the assistance of a dental professional.
Now a common question we get asked is, How long do I have to wear my retainers? When we remove your braces, we will evaluate your occlusion and determine the amount of full time retainer wear required. Full time wear means wearing the retainers all the time except when eating or brushing your teeth (roughly 22 hours/day). For some, this period may only last a few months, but often may be necessary for 6 months to a year. After this initial period of full time wear, Dr. Lee or I will tell you that it is okay to switch to nighttimes only. At this point, it is only necessary to wear your retainer when you sleep. As time goes along, many patients cut back to only a few nights a week. Nighttime wear does continue on indefinitely. No matter whether you are 16 or 60, your teeth can move. Therefore, protect your investment and wear your retainers as instructed. Youll be happy you did, and have the Star Smile to prove it!
If you have any further questions about retainers, or orthodontics in general, feel free to contact us at any time.