Why Do I Need a Retainer?

So, you’ve finally gotten your braces off, finished your Invisalign, and you’re done with the orthodontist. Not so fast – after treatment, you’ll be fitted with a retainer to keep that smile perfect for years to come. Get the answers to frequently asked questions about retainers and maintaining a healthy smile after receiving orthodontic treatment from Dr. Laurie McNamara McClatchey and Dr. James A. McNamara at McNamara Orthodontics.


In This Post, We’ll Cover:

  • What are Retainers?
  • Are there Different Types of Retainers?
  • How Long Do You Have to Wear a Retainer?
  • What if My Retainer Doesn’t Fit Anymore?

What are Retainers?

After having braces or Invisalign, you’ll be fitted for a retainer.  A retainer is a dental appliance that is worn to hold teeth in place after they have been straightened through Orthodontic treatment. A retainer is what keeps your smile straight and beautiful after you stop wearing braces. These appliances keep your teeth in place as your jawbone solidifies. During orthodontic treatment, the jaw and surrounding facial bones are moved frequently. A retainer allows the bones to solidify and mature so there isn’t relapse. 


Are there Different Types of Retainers?

There are two types of retainers: removable and fixed. Removable retainers can be either clear and like Invisalign in appearance or can be made of acrylic and wire. It can be taken out for eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing. A fixed retainer consists of a small wire that is bonded to the back of the teeth. It is less noticeable than a removable retainer, but it can be harder to keep clean. No matter what type of retainer is worn, it is important to follow the instructions of the Orthodontist to ensure that the teeth do not shift back into their original position.

Pets love to eat your removable retainers, so be sure to keep them out of reach! You’ll need a replacement, and retainers have sharp edges that could hurt your furry friend.

How Long Do You Have to Wear a Retainer?

For the first few months after treatment, retainers should be worn as much as possible. Most of the time we recommend day and nightwear immediately following treatment.When you aren’t eating, drinking, or playing sports, retainers should be in! Your orthodontist will tell you when you can switch to wearing it only when you sleep. This typically happens after a couple months and the jaw bones  have time to mature. Eventually, the bone cells  will solidify, and your risk for relapse decreases, but you should wear your retainer a couple of nights a week.


What if My Retainer Doesn’t Fit Anymore?

If you have had your braces removed and have been given a retainer to wear, it is important to make sure that it still fits properly. Over time, your teeth can shift slightly and your retainer may no longer fit snugly. If this happens, it is important to have it adjusted or replaced so that it continues to do its job. Otherwise, your teeth may begin to shift back into their original position.

It’s inevitable that you’ll forget to wear your retainer occasionally, and that’s OK! If you’ve missed a night or two, just pop it right back in. If your retainer is a bit tight, but you aren’t forcing it in, wear it more for the next few days as your teeth readjust. 

If you begin to feel like you’re forcing your retainer in, or it genuinely doesn’t fit anymore, call your orthodontist. We want your bite and your smile to stay healthy and might need to revisit some treatment!

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