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Nighttime for a Lifetime

Wear your retainer

It’s a great day, you just got your braces off and are really feeling good about your smile. You celebrated by chewing a whole pack of gum in 10 minutes and eating all the skittles you want. Your journey of straight teeth is really just beginning. The orthodontist gives you a set of upper/lower retainers to wear at night to keep your teeth straight. The first couple months it is easy to wear your retainers as you are happy you don’t have your braces on anymore. Soon it creeps in, the lack of motivation to wear the retainer. One night goes by and you don’t wear it, the next night you put it in. It feels tight but it is still wearable. Few nights later you miss two nights in a row and then when you try it on, it feels super tight. It’s so tight that you just stop wearing it. In a month you see your teeth are shifting so you go back to your orthodontist and show him/her your tight retainer. Phew, the orthodontist was able to adjust it to fit.

Sometimes our patients are not that lucky and the teeth have moved significantly to the point of needing to have braces again. Why does this occur? It’s called orthodontic relapse and it happens because our teeth have a memory programmed into them. Between the teeth are fibers that are within our gum tissue. When a tooth is straightened these fibers are stretched. They want to return to their original position and since they are attached to the teeth, as they shrink the teeth move back. Think of the fibers as stretched rubber bands that want to return to their original size once the tension of stretching is released.

There are basically two types of retainers that you will be prescribed. One is a removable retainer that you take in and out. Another type is a fixed retainer which is a thin bar that is glued behind your teeth. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and your orthodontic provider will help you choose the one that is right for you.

Although most patients undergoing orthodontics have stable results, relapse is difficult to predict and can happen either shortly after your braces are removed or years later. Therefore, it is important that all patients wear their retainers at nighttime for a lifetime, or as advised by your orthodontist. Before bedtime you should brush your teeth and then put your retainer on, which literally takes 2 seconds to do. In the morning to take it out, brush it and store it in a retainer case so it’s ready to wear at bedtime. You will be glad you protected your investment to have straight healthy teeth.

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