Just when you thought your Invisalign process was finished, you find out you have to wear a retainer full time unless you’re eating. You aren’t sure why, but your dental team is insisting you need the retainer for at least the next 4 – 6 months, maybe longer. This isn’t what you want to hear at all. But it is critical to the success of your treatment.
Unless you understand why that retainer is so important, you may take it home and put it in a drawer. So let’s get the facts.
Treatment With Invisalign
The use of invisible aligners (like Invisalign) to treat crooked or crowded teeth, gapped teeth, overbites, underbites, or other bite issues has grown in popularity in recent years. The aligners are nearly invisible and are custom-made for each client with treatment lasting from 6 – 18 months. Over that period, the teeth move and align based on computer models created to meet the client’s needs and the dentist or orthodontist’s recommendations. At TLC Dental Center in Cherry Hill, Invisalign is a favorite choice of nearly any dental patient who seeks to create a more beautiful smile.
Dr. Julie Kardon has treated many cosmetic dentistry patients who have discovered that Invisalign aligners may not be as expensive or time-consuming as they thought. TLC is glad to schedule a consultation at a time that’s convenient for you to determine if clear aligners are the right choice for you.
Retainers Support Your Teeth After Invisalign
Once the Invisalign process is finished, you will have invested both time and money to straighten your teeth. People may have even noticed and commented on your new smile. That needs to be protected during this initial period after treatment is over. And it will be worth it!
A retainer is crafted for your new smile, both upper and lower teeth, to hold them in their new positions in your mouth. The gums and bones around your teeth need time to adjust, too, until they are strong enough to hold your teeth securely. Without the retainer, they won’t “retain” all the work that was accomplished during the Invisalign process. But for how long?
Retainers May Be Short-term or Long-term
After about a year, the bone around your teeth should be ready to hold everything in place in their new positions. Your dental team may adjust your schedule and advise you to wear the retainer 3 – 5 times a week. They want to protect your investment as much as you do so your new smile stays as beautiful as possible!
Let’s not forget, though, that teeth shift in your mouth throughout your life. Even with strong bones and healthy gums, your teeth move slightly forward and inward as you age. The retainer will minimize this gradual movement to help prevent a sunken appearance in your face. You may not appreciate the retainer now but you certainly will over time.
Removable Or Fixed Retainers Both Do the Job
Some retainers are fixed to your teeth 24/7. Others are removable retainers, which means they are taken out when you are eating or cleaning them.
Here are the major differences between the two types of retainers:
- Most commonly used
- Made of a plastic-like material that is custom fit to your mouth
- Goes behind your lower front teeth OR against the roof of the mouth
- A wire behind the front teeth holds the retainer in place
- Some are similar to your clear aligners and fit over your teeth
- Are taken out to eat or clean them
- Are custom fit to your mouth
- Held in place by a wire that is bonded to the back of your teeth
- Usually made of stainless steel
- Stay in place indefinitely (can be removed by your dentist)
- Cannot be seen when talking or eating
- Tricky to clean
Your dentist will discuss the different types of retainers with you to determine which may be the best choice for you.
A Consultation Is All It Takes!
You may have lots of questions about the Invisalign process as well as the use of retainers afterward. Contact TLC Dental Center and set a time for a consultation to get the information you need to make an informed decision. Digital photos and x-rays will be done at this time and the dentist will perform an exam to put together a personalized treatment plan. The plan will be discussed with you in detail, including cost, the insurance coverage you may have, care afterward, and financing plans available.
Schedule your appointment today. You deserve the beautiful smile you’ve always wanted!
FAQ About Retainers:
What happens if I don’t wear the retainer like I’m supposed to?
The goal with cosmetic dental care today is retention for life. It isn’t to find a solution that has to be re-done in the future. With Invisalign, retention of all the work you and your dentist have done to give you a beautiful smile is the work of the retainer. If you don’t use retainers as instructed, the teeth can shift back into their pre-Invisalign position, erasing all the time and money you spent.
How do I take care of my retainer?
Good question! Clean a removable retainer regularly by soaking it in distilled water and a denture-cleaning tablet. Or you can mix baking soda and distilled water to soak the retainer in. Brush the retainer with toothpaste after soaking and then put it back in your mouth. Don’t let it dry out!
A fixed retainer takes a bit more care. Use a Waterpik and floss between the teeth to remove food particles. Dental visits are still important, so make sure you keep up your schedule of regular appointments to help maintain good oral hygiene.
What other advice will help take care of the retainer?
Here are some tips for taking care of your retainer:
- There are only 2 places to keep your retainer: In its case or in your mouth!
- Carry a retainer case with you.
- Don’t drop your retainer into a pocket or purse.
- Don’t take it out and wrap it in a napkin. It’s too easy to throw away.
- Keep your retainer away from pets.
- Keep it away from heat. A retainer can lose its unique shape if it’s left on a heater, a hot stove, or in a hot car.