Why Is It So Important to Wear Retainers After Orthodontic Treatment? by Dr. Nick Reynolds, Northeast Orthodontics
“Really? My kid has to wear the retainer every night for the rest of their life? When I had braces, my orthodontist told me to wear it for just a couple years and then stop.” This is a very common comment we hear from curious parents when discussing the importance of wearing retainers after orthodontic treatment is completed. Where the misconception came from, we really aren’t quite sure. The evidence has been in the literature for decades about treatment relapse being predictable in both amount and timing. Nonetheless, the same surprised expression on parents’ faces are seen weekly when we deliver the news that we recommend night time wear, or as we call it, “nighttime for a lifetime” of the retainers after braces come off.
For those of you wondering what exactly a retainer is and what it does, I will digress and fill you in! The point of braces is to take your teeth from the natural position your body wants them in, to a position of a perfect bite and a handsome or beautiful smile. Once braces come off, we like to describe the teeth as being in “wet cement”. The bone and gum tissue around each and every tooth is immature. If left alone, your body will immediately fight to put the teeth back into the “natural” position they were before you ever had braces. The reality is, you have natural orthodontic forces in your mouth twenty-four hours a day. Your teeth’s position are a result of cheek pressure, tongue pressure and chewing forces. Braces did a great job overpowering those forces and putting the teeth in their perfect position,
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and retainers are your insurance policy of keeping them there. The retainers themselves are typically made of plastic, or acrylic, and they fit over the teeth to keep them placed in the proper po-
sition. Every patient has unique teeth, and unique treatment circumstances, so we prescribe and tailor make the retainers for each individual patient.
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10 • August 2017
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