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All About Retainers

The Why of Retainers

One of the questions we're most frequently asked is "Will I have to wear a retainer when my braces are off?"

Okay, it actually sounds more like this: "Wait, what? I just got my braces off and now I have to wear something else? Why do I have to wear a retainer? What if I don't wear it, then what happens?"

The short answers to those questions are:
"Because the doctor said so."
And, "You'll probably have to wear braces again and your parents will be mad."

None of those answers satisfy the average teenager so we asked Dr Eric to explain it for us. Without all the really technical stuff, this is the reason why he prescribes a retainer after your braces treatment: When we move the teeth to a more optimal position we are also moving the roots of your teeth through the bone. The bone dissolves and then reforms around the roots but this takes time. The teeth need to be supported in their new position while this is happening.

How Long Will I Have to Wear a Retainer?

Ideally, we'd like to leave your braces on passively holding your teeth steady for about a year or so. Not many of our patients would find that option acceptable so a retainer is the next best thing.

Generally speaking, we have you wear the retainer for one to four weeks full time taking it out only to eat and brush. After that you'll wear it while you're sleeping. Many long term studies have shown that wearing the retainer for about three years gives the best results.

Towards the end of that three year period we have you start phasing your retainer out by skipping a night and seeing if the retainer is tight when you put it in the next night. If it's not, then you go two nights off, etc. Some people find that wearing the retainer a few nights a week indefinitely works well for them.

What we don't like to see happen is for someone to stop wearing their retainer early and have to come back for re-treatment. We really like catching up with all of our past patients, but we'd much rather you just stop by to say hello!

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