Orthodontic retainers are worn at the last phase of an orthodontic treatment. The duration of wear may range from less than a year or more. The time of wear will be suggested by your dentist depending on the severity of your malocclusion that was corrected. Retainers are very important to be worn because they are responsible for maintaining the alignment of teeth, in the corrected position and helps in bite improvement after completion of active orthodontic treatment.
Fixed retainers are usually bonded with wires on the back surfaces of the lower front teeth. This is mainly done on the back surface of teeth for aesthetic and comfort of the patient. It also ensures longer retention. They can be done directly on patient’s mouth or on a stone cast model and fabricated.
Removable retainers are made of stainless steel wires and acrylic material. Clear aligners are widely being used now, mainly because it’s more comfortable to eat and looks pleasing and more hygienic.
It is generally recommended to wear retainers for at least a year following active orthodontic treatment. Relapse of space and movement of teeth can be seen very fast following removal of the fixed appliance. Most orthodontists use a removable retainer for the upper arch and are advised to be worn full time for 6 months. After six months, the patient can go on nightwear and gradually reduce this if there are no pressure areas when placing the retainers. Lower arch is usually a fixed retainer and should be left in place for a longer period of time.
The removable retainers will require replacement now and then. You will have to observe for wear and tear in case of clear aligners, breakage of acrylic, loosening of wires, the position of teeth changes such that your aligners don’t fit in or if they just get dirty over time.
It is very important to clean your retainers every day. Clean them using cold water and a non-abrasive toothpaste with a soft toothbrush. Cleaning is imperative and has to be done every day before you wear them. It is good to remove your retainers when you eat, so that food staining and accumulation can be avoided. Retainers can also be cleaned using denture cleaning solution. They are small tablets which dissolve in water. You can check with your dentist to get them and store it for use.
After stopping active orthodontic treatment, it is very important to check with your dentist periodically once in 2-3 months, so that any relapse can be prevented by prompt intervention. Co-operation of the patient is very essential to get desired results. Long-term stability is long-term retention, and this can be achieved only if retainers are worn on a long term.