After months or years of having braces, you expect your teeth to stay straight forever. The reality of the situation is, our bodies are constantly changing, including the placement of our teeth and jaws. Retainers are there to help your teeth stay straight after orthodontic treatment, but can they help you re-straighten teeth that have shifted over time? Let’s look closer at what the retainer is and what it does to help you keep your straight smile.
What is a Retainer?
A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that’s used following your orthodontic treatment to help your teeth “retain” their new positions, hence the name retainer. Retainers are not a one size fits all solution to maintaining the effects of treatment. Each retainer is custom-made to fit snugly around the patient’s teeth and mouth. When worn properly, they help patients maintain their newly aligned teeth.
Why Do Teeth Shift After Braces?
During orthodontic treatment, the braces shift the teeth and align the jaw into their correct position with a series of subtle adjustments. The time after getting your braces off is one of the most critical times to wear a retainer, as your bones are not completely hardened and set in their new position. Without the use of a retainer, the bones stay pliable and start to shift back into their original position, reversing the progress that has been made with your original orthodontic treatment.
How Does a Retainer Work?
A retainer works by holding your teeth in their new position while the bone has time to set and harden. Most often, our orthodontist will recommend you wear your retainers for 12 hours per day for the first 3 months, then sleeping hours after that for as long as you want your teeth to remain straight. This is to ensure your teeth do not begin to shift back into their original position.
So, Does a Retainer Correct Shifting Teeth?
After we get our braces removed, we are often too excited to listen to our orthodontist about regularly wearing our retainers. We want to show off our new, straight teeth without the appearance of a retainer getting in the way. However, when you start to notice your teeth shifting over time, you panic and wonder if your retainer can help to reverse that shift.
In reality, your retainer can only do so much to help you. By the time you start to see a visible shift in your teeth, it may be too late to fix with your retainer alone. The retainer’s job is to simply keep teeth in their place, not to shift them back when they start to move. If you try to use your retainer to shift your teeth back into their position, it can be extremely uncomfortable and possibly cause damage to the teeth and jaw. We recommend seeing your orthodontist to evaluate the shifting of your teeth post-alignment.
Straighten your teeth and keep them straight with the help of Drs. Savage, Sabol, and Visser. They’ll be able to develop a fully customized and affordable orthodontic treatment plan for you based on your alignment issues and cosmetic goals. Contact us today to schedule your first visit.