Retainers for Teeth

Whether you are undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces or wearing removable clear aligners, your dentist will give you retainers to wear at the end of your treatment. If you have also been given retainers to wear by your dentist, and you’re wondering what retainers are how they work, this article is for you. So, continue reading to learn more about teeth retainers. 

What is a Retainer Teeth?

A dental retainer is a removable or fixed appliance that your dentist will prescribe after completing your orthodontic treatment. The purpose of wearing retainers is to consolidate your treatment, prevent your teeth from moving back to their previous position and undo the hard work done by your orthodontist to align your teeth. It must be noted here that dental aligners do not provide active orthodontic treatment, meaning that they don’t exert force on your teeth. Instead, they are passive appliances, meaning they only prevent tooth movement. 

What are Retainers for?

Changes in the position of the teeth and shape of the jawbones is a continuously occurring, lifetime phenomenon. When your orthodontist realigns your teeth using braces or aligners, they apply forces on your teeth to move them in the desired direction. Once the teeth attain their new position, they tend to move back to their old position unless they are prevented from doing so. This is where the dental retainers come in. 

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, retainers are prescribed for two reasons: 

  • To Ensure Optimal Anchorage of the teeth – retainers allow new bone tissue to grow around the teeth and anchor them in their new positions. Generally, it takes around 4-6 months of wearing aligners for the new position of your teeth to become permanent. To Prevent Unwanted Movement – alignment of the teeth is only half of the battle; the other half is to ensure they don’t move back. Orthodontic aligners are designed to prevent unwanted movement of the teeth once the treatment has been completed. Immediately after completing your treatment, if you don’t wear an aligner, your teeth will try to shift back to their original position. This process is known as “relapse,” resulting in the re-emergence of tooth alignment and facial aesthetic problems. This issue can be easily avoided with retainers. 

How Long do I Need to Wear Retainers?

As discussed earlier, movement of the teeth is a lifelong phenomenon. Therefore, you will need to wear retainers throughout life if you want to keep your teeth straight. Generally, patients are asked to wear their aligners for 24 hours, 7 days a week for one year. Afterward, The American Association of Orthodontists recommends wearing the aligners during nighttime to prevent treatment relapse, as the teeth have already become firmly embedded within the jawbone in their new position.