You did it! Congratulations on completing your orthodontic journey and achieving a beautiful, straight smile! Now it’s time to maintain your new smile with a retainer. Wearing a retainer after braces or Invisalign allows your teeth to settle securely in their new spots and prevents them from shifting back over time. To help you get the most out of your orthodontic retainer, your custom smile orthodontist, Dr. Okuda and the Okuda Orthodontics team offer ten important things to know.
Retainers Come in Several Options
Orthodontic retainers are either removable or fixed. Removable retainers are usually made of clear plastic, and you take them out for cleaning and eating. You can choose from two types of removable retainers:
A Hawley retainer is made of wire that sits against your teeth with hard plastic that sits against your palate for the top arch or sits behind your lower teeth for your bottom arch.
This transparent, all-plastic retainer fits over your teeth like Invisalign.
And how about fixed retainers? These custom, permanent retainers are bonded to the backs of your teeth; you can’t see them when you smile.
Dr. Okuda will go over your options and recommend the type that works best for you. At Okuda Orthodontics, we use the iTero digital scanner for a quick and painless impression of your mouth. We then use the resulting 3D renderings to design our patients’ custom retainers for a perfect fit.
Consistent Wear is Key to Locking in Your Smile
Consistent wear ensures your teeth remain in their beautifully aligned positions. At first, a retainer allows the bone holding your teeth in their new spots to finish building up and allows the ligaments to settle. After that, a retainer prevents your teeth from shifting over time since it’s their natural tendency to do so.
The American Dental Association recommends wearing your retainer 24/7 for the first two to three months. The exception is when you eat or drink anything other than water and when cleaning your teeth. Eventually, most retainer-wearers transition to wearing it only at night. Of course, Dr. Okuda knows your orthodontic journey inside and out and will design a tailored plan for you.
Regular Visits To Your Orthodontist Still Required
Don’t say goodbye to your Henderson orthodontist just yet! After braces or Invisalign, Dr. Okuda will need to check on your teeth and recommend adjustments to your retainer wear if needed. Typically, you’ll see Dr. Okuda a few times in your first year of wearing a retainer and then once a year after that.
Proper Cleaning Contributes to Good Oral Health
Keeping your retainer free of food debris and plaque is helpful for good oral health. Our advice? Brush your teeth and removable retainer after each meal (Toothpaste for the teeth, no toothpaste for the retainer.) Keep a mini oral hygiene kit with you that includes a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, and a retainer case.
Pro tip: Avoid using hot water to clean your retainer, as it may cause the plastic to warp.
Keep A Storage Case On Hand At All Times
With your retainer case in your to-go kit, you’ll have a safe and discreet place to stash your retainer wherever you go. We also suggest having a few retainer cases in:
- a bathroom at home
- your backpack or purse
- the car
- your bedside table
- at work or school
Be Mindful of How Your Orthodontic Retainer Fits
As time passes, you may notice slight changes in your retainer fit. If your Hawley or Essix retainer becomes loose or uncomfortable, check in with Dr. Okuda as soon as possible. Ill-fitting retainers may not adequately support your teeth in their positions which can lead to shifts.
Keep Your Retainer Away from Heat
The plastic in your retainer can warp or lose its shape when exposed to high heat. So keep your retainer out of direct sunlight, near a heater, or in a hot car.
Keep a Glass of Water By Your Bed
You might be surprised to know that orthodontic appliances can cause dry mouth. You see, your body recognizes you have a foreign object in your mouth and may respond by decreasing your saliva. Weird but true! So keep water by your bed to refresh your mouth at night when wearing a retainer.
Retainers Can Break or Get Lost
Save our number in your phone, just in case! Contact your Las Vegas-area orthodontist right away if you need to repair or replace your retainer.
A Retainer is a Lifetime Commitment
So how long do I need to wear a retainer? Wearing a retainer after Invisalign or braces is a lifelong commitment to preserving your smile results. While your orthodontist may reduce how long you wear your retainer the longer you have it, continuing to use your Hawley or Essix retainer is essential for keeping that straight, beautiful smile.
Henderson Orthodontics — Here To Support A Lifetime of Beautiful Smiles
Wearing a retainer is all about protecting the investment you made in achieving your dream smile. Have more questions about wearing a retainer? Dr. Okuda and his team are here to help you maintain your smile for the long haul.
Give us a shout if you have any questions about your orthodontic retainer or to schedule a retainer check-in appointment.