Retainers after lingual braces
After wearing lingual braces, or in fact any brace, retainers are a necessity. Their job is to stop your teeth from moving and maintain the great results from your orthodontic treatment.
If you don’t wear retainers following the removal of your braces, you run the risk of them drifting back to their pre-treatment position.
Retainers stop teeth from moving simply by holding them in place. There are two different types available, removable: which as the name implies can be taken in and out, and fixed: which are permanently attached behind your front teeth.
Removable retainers, also known as clear retainers, are clear, plastic aligners that are custom-made to closely fit your teeth. Once your teeth have been straightened and your braces have been removed, your orthodontist will take moulds of your teeth.
These will be used to create your removable retainers, ensuring they fit your teeth perfectly.
Your orthodontist will advise you on how often to wear your removable retainers. You might need to wear them full time for a while, and then just at night. There are special tablets you can buy, for example Retainer Brite, which will keep your removable retainers clean and fresh. You may want to consider asking for two sets of removable retainers, so you have a back up, just in case one gets misplaced.
Fixed retainers are, unsurprisingly, ‘fixed’ behind your front teeth (much like your lingual brace), holding them in place 24 hours a day. They consist of a thin wire, which is cemented to the back surfaces of your front six teeth. They’re designed to be worn indefinitely, providing a long-term solution to ‘orthodontic relapse’.
No one will be able to see your fixed retainers, and you shouldn’t have any problems with them – they’re very unobtrusive. You will, however, need to keep them clean using interdental brushes (you won’t be able to use normal dental floss between your front teeth). If your fixed retainer becomes detached at any point it’s important to go and see your orthodontist, before your teeth have a chance to move.
Why won’t my teeth stay straight without retainers?
As your braces move your teeth, the bone surrounding them will adapt too, helping to support them in their new position. It can take months for this alveolar bone to stabilise in its new position, and during this time your risk of orthodontic relapse is much higher – so it’s even more important to wear your retainers.
Even once this bone has settled, your teeth won’t be protected from relapse. There are ligaments that are stretched during orthodontic treatment that will always be under pressure to ‘spring’ back to their original position, taking your teeth with them.
There are some orthodontic problems that will leave you more at risk of relapse, for example spacing and severely twisted teeth.
As you grow, your bone structure and soft tissues will continue to change, which can also affect the position of your teeth and bite. For this reason, retainers are even more important for younger patients who are still growing.
Even adults will experience some changes over time and teeth have a tendency to crowd or ‘wrinkle’ like your skin as you get older. Retainers are an effective way to prevent the effects of aging on your teeth.
There can be some confusion surrounding retainers, and everyone has a friend who didn’t wear their retainers but still has beautifully straight teeth. Unfortunately, for every one of these friends there are many more who have suffered the consequences of not wearing their retainers. So, for as long as you want to maintain straight teeth after braces, you’ll need to keep wearing your retainers.