How to Use an Orthodontic Retainer to Keep Your Teeth Straight

Orthodontic retainer

If you are looking forward to the end of your orthodontic treatment, you might think you are done with braces for good, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Whilst you will have your fixed brace removed, or stop using your removable braces, once your orthodontist agrees that treatment is complete, you will most likely need to wear an orthodontic retainer to ensure your teeth don’t creep back into their original positions.

What is an Orthodontic Retainer?

Retainers are used at the end of a course of braces treatment to hold the straightened teeth in place whilst the surrounding bone and gum adjusts to their new position. We understand that having your braces removed is an exciting time and that you’ll want to show off your new smile, but unless you use your retainer as advised, your teeth will slowly start to move back to where they were before your treatment began.

Why Do Teeth Move After Braces?

During your orthodontic treatment, your teeth are moved and held in place by your braces. This stretches the fibres in your gums, so that when the braces are removed, these fibres naturally want to pull your teeth back into their original position. It takes time for the gums and bone around your teeth to adjust to the new alignment and it is during this time that wearing an orthodontic retainer is so important.

What Type of Orthodontic Retainer Will You Need?

There are two basic types of retainer that are recommended after braces treatment:

  • Fixed retainer - a thin, discreet wire that is fixed to the front of the teeth, like a simple brace, to hold the teeth in their new position.
  • Removable retainer - a thin, clear retainer that looks like a gum shield and is worn over the teeth, particularly at night, to hold the teeth in place.

We will advise you on the type of retainer you need to wear when you are nearing the end of your treatment. Depending on your individual case, you may be advised to wear retainers for a certain amount of time per day, a certain period of time or indefinitely.

How to Keep Your Retainers Clean

Keeping your retainer clean is just as important as brushing your teeth. Not cleaning your retainer properly means debris and bacteria can transfer to your teeth, causing plaque build up and eventually, tooth decay.

  • Cleaning fixed retainers - if you had fixed brace treatment, then you will be used to cleaning in and around wires and brackets fixed to your teeth. A fixed retainer is much the same, so you’ll need to brush above, on and below the retainer wire and use an interdental brush to get between the wire and your teeth.
  • Cleaning removable retainers - you will need to rinse out the retainer when it's not in use, use a small soft toothbrush (not one that you use for your teeth) to brush out the retainer with some mild soap and then rinse again. It’s also a good idea to store the retainer in its case when not in use, to stop bacteria from forming on the surfaces.

Knowing what to expect at the end of your dental braces treatment will help you to prepare for the final phase of your treatment - prolonging your straight smile! If you have any questions about what will happen when your braces are removed or how to wear your orthodontic retainer please ask at your next appointment or call our team on 020 8646 6200. For more tips on braces care please click here.