How Do Retainers Work?

affinity dental how retainers work

It is essential to understand how retainers work so you can get the most out of them.

Essential components of oral health and orthodontics are retainers. Retainers do what they say: they work to retain the position of your teeth. But how exactly does a retainer work, and what can you do to help them be most effective? Understanding the types of retainers, how they work, and when they are needed can help you fully utilize and appreciate these orthodontic tools.

Types of Retainers

Retainers work by holding your teeth in place after braces have shifted them into proper alignment. Types of retainers include: 

Hawley Retainers

This retainer is the traditional type made of a plastic-like mold that fits the roof of your mouth. A length of wire runs along the front of your teeth. 

Clear Retainers

These retainers are an inconspicuous alternative to the Hawley retainer because they are made of clear plastic and are made to fit precisely over your teeth to hold them in place. 

Bonded Retainers

A bonded retainer consists of a piece of wire that runs along the back of your teeth. The retainer is permanently bonded to your teeth with a composite material hardened with a curing light. 

When Retainers Are Needed

Your bones have two cells that work to remodel your skeleton. Osteoclasts break down and deliver old bone into your bloodstream, while osteoblasts build your bone wherever it needs reinforcement through ossification. 

Bones are reinforced through osseointegration. When you chew or bite, the force you exert through your teeth into your jawbone sends signals to osteoblasts to keep the bone strong. After your teeth have been realigned through braces, this process helps your teeth settle into place while a retainer holds them. 

Without a retainer, your teeth will relapse and go back towards their original position before the bone has sufficient time to strengthen in the areas in which you wish to keep them. 

How Long You Need to Wear Retainers

After your braces are removed, it can take time for your teeth to adjust. Follow your orthodontist’s recommendations for your individual needs. Generally, however, you may need to wear your retainer 24 hours a day for the first three months, except for when eating. 

If your teeth were severely misaligned before braces, it could take up to a year or more for your teeth to stabilize. Your orthodontist may also recommend you wear a retainer at least part of every day after this first 12-month period to maintain a straightened position. The American Association of Orthodontics says that retainers cannot be worn for too long or too much, and most patients continue to wear them at night well after their braces have been removed. 

If you stop wearing your retainer for a period and your teeth have shifted so that your retainer is uncomfortable or painful to wear, contact your orthodontist right away. They can fit you for a new retainer, which you can wear more consistently. 

Why Alignment Is Appointment

Retainers work best when you use them! You’ve worked hard for a proper bite, so you want to ensure that it was worth it by wearing your retainer as prescribed. By doing so, you can retain a healthy, hygienic smile for life. 

Keep Your Smile Healthy with Affinity

While these tips can help with some tooth and gum sensitivity issues, we know the best way of correcting the problem is to visit your dentist regularly. Affinity Dental, located in Catonsville, MD, has six dentists and provides a variety of services from pediatric dentistry to orthodontics. Affinity Dental is capable of meeting all your needs. With 170 combined years of treating a variety of dental needs, Affinity is committed to providing quality dental care. To get your teeth back into good health and make your smile bright, call us at 410-719-7900 or contact us online. For other useful tips on dental care follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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