Your teeth have been beautifully straightened; the braces are coming off and now begins the next phase of treatment — wearing a retainer. Your orthodontist is probably recommending a bonded or permanent retainer rather than a removable one. This is the case especially if treatment involved a big change to your bite and these changes have a high probability of reversing themselves.
Even though your teeth are now aligned, they are going to continue to shift unless they are held in place. A permanent retainer is most often used to do the job and produces the best long-term results. Here are answers to the most common questions.
What Does A Permanent Retainer Look Like?
This type of retainer consists of a thin piece of wire that is attached to the teeth. The wire is bent to run along the backside of the lower teeth and is held permanently in place with dental bonding material. If your orthodontist is not inserting one of these on your upper teeth, he may feel it will interfere with your bite.
Who Needs One?
Anyone who chooses orthodontic treatment, regardless of age, goes through a retention phase after braces are removed. This gives bones, ligaments and gums time to adapt to their new positions and keep them from moving back to their original state. Your teeth are the most vulnerable during the first three months following removal of braces. This is when the bones surrounding the roots of the teeth are soft and pliable. Over time this improves, but the risk always remains.
If you follow instructions and your orthodontic treatment is successful, you won’t experience any discomfort. If there is a shift in the new position of the teeth, the added pressure may trigger some consistent pain.
How Are Permanent Retainers Applied?
Permanent retainers are placed on the backside of the lower middle six teeth. The main component is a stainless steel flexible wire that is held up against all six teeth and fixed with dental bonding material. Your orthodontist then hardens the bond with a special curing light. The bonding process takes only a few minutes. You will have to return to the orthodontist if you ever need the appliance removed.
If your retainer breaks or no longer fits correctly, make an appointment with the orthodontist for an evaluation. Damage can happen when you receive a mouth injury or bite down on something hard. The break may not be noticed before teeth begin to shift out of position. Be sure to maintain scheduled dental appointments to minimize any problems that you may be experiencing.
How to Take Care of Your Retainer
There are some drawbacks, so instructions your orthodontist gives you should be followed to avoid problems. The following are some difficulties you may encounter.
- Food restrictions
- Difficulty flossing
- Calculus build up
Permanent Retainer Food Restrictions
Certain permanent retainer food restrictions apply right after the retainer is inserted. The orthodontist will advise you not eat any hard foods for at least 48 hours. At any time always be aware of foods that may stick to the retainer or that might damage it. Things like straws, pens and other items should be kept away from the inside of the mouth.
Flossing is more difficult with a bonded retainer and you will have to be sure to complete good oral hygiene on a daily basis. For thorough cleaning use a floss threader to loop under the wire and reach the back surface of the teeth. Remember that any slacking off will allow calculus to build up on teeth. That will only lead to bad breath and swollen, bleeding gums.
What Happens If My Permanent Retainer is Damaged?
Your appliance is not break-proof. Normal wear and tear, an injury or just biting down on food that is too hard can break the wire or loosen it. You may not even realize there is damage until you feel your teeth are starting to shift. Just be sure to keep your checkup appointments so the orthodontist can take a look at how the retainer is holding up and head off any problems before they get started.
How Long Will I Have To Wear It?
Permanent retainers are worn indefinitely unless they are damaged and need to be removed. The minimum amount of time is two years, and is required at least until wisdom teeth are through or removed. Some patients wear their bonded retainers for as long as 20 years.
If this treatment is not working out for you, your orthodontist may sometimes remove the permanent retainer and switch you to a removable appliance. Whether he makes this recommendation is very much dependent on the individual patient. It will depend on how misaligned the teeth were before treatment and the structure of facial tissue.
It is to your advantage to wear your retainer for as long as possible. If you are a teenager, your jaw will continue to grow into your early 20s. Removable retainers may sound like a great idea, but unless they’re worn regularly, they won’t keep teeth from moving right back and undoing all the work your braces did.
Permanent retainers will never get lost, thrown in the trash or left in a hot car. Take care of your new smile and keep it for years to come. Follow your orthodontist’s recommendations and wear your retainer as long as you can and your will be happy with the results.