Braces are Off…Now What?
Most teens and adults who wear braces cannot wait for the day that they are free from them. They look forward to finally having the straight smile they have desired.
Whether treatment takes a few months (in cases of limited orthodontics) or 2-3 years it is still something to look forward to. But now the work begins to continue maintaining proper oral hygiene to keep those teeth straight, white, and free of tooth decay.
Tips to Maintain that Straight Smile
-Schedule regular dental examinations and cleanings. Now that the braces are off it is not a time to slack off on maintaining your teeth. Most patients find dental hygiene to be easier after dealing with braces for such a long time. Most patients, especially adult patients, are extra motivated following orthodontic treatment. They want to show off their new smile and keep their teeth shining. Immediately following removal of braces it is very important to schedule an appointment to see your regular dentist to ensure there is no tooth decay, residual cement, chipped enamel or stains. Sometimes there are white spots caused by decalcified enamel under or around the brackets. The gums, and roots of teeth also need to be evaluated. The dentist will also check your orthodontic retainer to assure proper fit and hygiene.
-Wear Your Orthodontic Retainer. Following most orthodontic treatment an orthodontic retainer is custom made for patients. This retainer will need to be worn for 9-12 months as your teeth “adjust” to their new positions. If you choose not to wear your orthodontic retainer regularly, your teeth will likely shift. After the first year, many people wear their orthodontic retainers at night, several nights per week, to ensure that their new smiles continue to look great. There are three basic types of orthodontic retainers. These include:
1) Hawley Retainer. This type of orthodontic retainer is made of acrylic that is custom molded to your mouth. These contain a wire to hold your teeth in position. A Hawley retainer is the most common type of retainer. The acrylic can be made available in clear, and in a variety of colors and interesting designs, so you can “personalize” your orthodontic retainer if you so choose.
2) Essix Retainer. These are made of clear plastic. Most people like these as they are fairly lightweight and thin, and do not look anything like traditional retainers.
3) Fixed Retainer. These are just as the name implies, meaning they do not come out. These are usually a thin wire bonded behind a section of teeth using a tooth colored material. This type of orthodontic retainer stays in the mouth 24 hours a day and patients must be extra diligent to maintain proper oral hygiene as food and debris can be trapped along this type of orthodontic retainer. This is most often used on lower teeth, as they have the highest incidence of moving back to their original positions over time. The fixed orthodontic retainer is best for those who would be unlikely to wear a removable retainer as they are instructed to, or would likely lose it.
-Never stop wearing your orthodontic retainer unless advised otherwise. Wearing the orthodontic retainer will ensure the teeth do not shift over time.
Maintenance of Your Orthodontic Retainer
How can you keep your orthodontic retainer clean? You can brush a Hawley retainer with a toothbrush. Brushing is not recommended for Essix orthodontic retainers because brushing can scratch or damage them. You can use denture cleaner such as efferdent, but there are actually several retainer cleaning products custom produced for this task. These include RetainerBrite and SonicBrite. You should also bring your orthodontic retainer to dental appointments, your hygienist can place them in a special tartar and stain removing solution to soak while you are having your teeth cleaned.
-Retainer Brite. This cleaner comes in tablet form and can be used with our without a portable sonic cleaner. The advantage of this cleaner is that the tablets are individually wrapped, which makes it easy for traveling and on the go.
-SonicBrite. This cleaner is a powder that comes with a battery operated sonic cleaner bath. It works very well at getting white calculus build up off of many types of orthodontic retainers and dental appliances. Patients with Essix retainers and Invisalign -type aligners tend to like this system.
All of these systems do a very good job at keeping your orthodontic retainer smelling fresh and preventing white build up. They can be used for either plastic and wire Hawley retainers, or Essix (clear plastic) retainers and Invisalign type aligner trays.
What If I lose My Orthodontic Retainer?
Losing retainers especially for teenagers is quite common. A good tip to make sure you do not lose it is to carry a retainer case with you at all times. Get in the habit of placing the orthodontic retainer in its case whenever you need to remove it. This way it is not just left in a napkin on a restaurant table or left for a dog to chew. Be sure to keep your orthodontic retainers in their protective case when out of your mouth. Dogs love to chew retainers, and they can be easily knocked off counters and stepped on. It is YOUR responsibility to make sure that the retainer is kept in a safe place when not in use. Backpacks, pockets, and purses are also dangerous, unless the protective case is used. Heavy books, keys, etc. can bend and break orthodontic retainers.
You have long awaited your new smile. You have been through a lot to get here. Make sure you do all that you need to maintain your investment. Your future should be filled with years of bright smiles. Wear your orthodontic retainer, so that your teeth don’t move out of their new, beautiful positions. Continue with excellent oral hygiene. Be diligent with your dental visits. These tips can help keep that perfect smile straight for many years to come!