February 3, 2010

Retainers: Life After Braces

An orthodontic retainer is a custom-made, fixed or removable device. It is attached to the teeth to hold them in position. Retainers are made of rubber or plastic and have metal wires that cover the front part of the teeth.

People most often wear them after a full treatment of braces.  They can also be used to treat teeth without the use of braces.

Being Fitted for a Retainer

Your orthodontist will assess a number of things to make sure your retainer fits right. She will do X-rays, take pictures of your face, and make molds of your teeth. This helps her to find how your teeth relate to your jaws, your jaws to your head, the position of your teeth and roots, and if there are any teeth below the gums.

How Long to Wear a Retainer

Used alone or with braces, a retainer is helps to keep your teeth lined up right. For post-braces care, it should be worn at all times for the first six months, then usually only while sleeping.

Teeth tend to shift over time. Even though braces may have successfully shifted the teeth, they will need time to settle in their new position. Bones, gums, and muscles all need time to adapt to these changes. As a result, you may need to wear a retainer for years. Your orthodontist will let you know what’s best for you.

Caring for a Retainer

Brush your retainer every time you brush your teeth. Use a toothbrush, toothpaste, and warm – never hot – water. In fact, never expose them to extreme temperatures. Keep them in a container when not in use to avoid loss.

Also, disinfect them each day. To do this, soak them in a denture cleanser and a cup of warm water. Then, rinse with warm water before you put them back on your teeth.

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