Dental retainers: when are they needed?

When removing the braces or the orthodontics that have been used, patients may believe that the treatment has finished. But actually a very important phase is missing in which dental retainers are used.

It is about the placement of devices that maintain the position of the teeth that was achieved during orthodontic treatment, until the body adapts to this new alignment. Below we discuss why it is necessary to use them, the different types of dental retainers that exist and how they should be maintained.

Why are retainers necessary?

Dental retainers are devices that are placed in the mouth of patients when they finish orthodontic treatment. They are necessary in all those who have the appliances removed.

At the end of orthodontic treatment, the teeth have a tendency to return to their old position. The retainers serve to keep them fixed in the new location and that the entire process is successful.

In this final phase, the appliances do not exert any movement or force on the teeth; they only keep what has been achieved. Therefore, the patient will experience neither pain nor pressure.

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How long should they be used?

As we already mentioned, after the teeth reach the desired position, the supporting tissues of the tooth may not adapt to the new location and try to return to their previous place. The dental retainer will hold the teeth in the position achieved until the bone and gums get used to it. and adapt to the changes obtained.

Adaptation can take between 12 and 16 months. Retainers must be worn until the process is complete, otherwise orthodontic results will be lost.

The orthodontist will be in charge of indicating the time of use of the dental retainers according to the clinical case. Most of the time wearing them for a year is usually enough, but some treatments may take longer.

In the beginning, as soon as orthodontics is finished and dental retainers are started, their use is intensive. The patient must use them most of the day, but as the months go by their use is reduced to a few hours.

Dental retainers are part of the orthodontic process and are placed after the appliance is removed.

Different types of dental retainers

Dental retainers can be fixed or removable. The choice of one type or the other is made by the patient in conjunction with the dentist, who will explain the advantages and disadvantages of each and which is the most convenient for that particular case.

The characteristics of each are detailed below.

Fixed retainers

It consists of the application of a fine wire splint that is cemented on the palatal or lingual surfaces of the teeth to immobilize them. In general, it is made from canine to canine, but it can change according to each clinical case.

This retention, being fixed, cannot be removed by the patient. When it is placed on the internal faces of the dental elements, it is not visible, being a very aesthetic option.

The patient has no problems speaking or eating. At first, until they get used to their presence, they can hurt the tongue from rubbing.

Its use is ideal when you need to keep an open space; for example, for the placement of an implant. It is necessary to pay special attention to oral hygiene in the area, as bacteria or food debris accumulate.

How to maintain and clean fixed retainers

For dental retainers to last longer and fulfill their function, some care is necessary. These are sanitized during the time of tooth brushing, with the same toothbrush.

The use of dental irrigators that facilitate the removal of bacterial plaque and food debris from the metal splint can complement the cleaning. Regular check-ups with the orthodontist are recommended to ensure that the retainers are working properly.

Also read: Dental hygiene with orthodontics: 7 keys

Removable retainers

As the name implies, the patient can put them on and take them out of the mouth. Although it will be the dentist who indicates the mode and time of use, in general they are used throughout the day for the first months and then it is done for a few hours a day; just to sleep, for example.

It is advisable that the patient take them out to eat. Also that they keep them clean, sanitizing them at least once a day. Their disadvantage is that they can be lost. Further, its use depends on perseverance and commitment to treatment.

Removable retainers can be of two types:

  • Transparent plates: They are transparent plastic trays that are placed over the teeth. They are aesthetic, although they may need to be replaced from time to time.
  • Metal retainers: They are appliances made with a metal arch that fits over the teeth, attached to an acrylic plate that rests on the palate. They can be easily removed, but make speech difficult until the patient becomes accustomed to their presence.

Oral hygiene is key in orthodontic treatment and, therefore, its benefits also apply to retainers.

How to maintain removable retainers

Here are some tips to keep these retainers in good condition:

  • Be careful when removing them: Although they are made of resistant material, when putting them on and taking them out they must be treated with care so as not to break them. It is useful to alternate the side from which it is withdrawn to avoid always using force in the same place.
  • Store retainers in rigid boxes: When the retainers are removed from the mouth, to eat or at times when the orthodontist indicates not to use them, the ideal is to always put them in their box. This prevents them from breaking and getting lost.
  • Clean them every time they are removed: When removing the retainers from the mouth, they must be washed with water, a soft brush and neutral soap. You should not use toothpaste or rinses, as they have abrasive substances that take away the transparency of the material.
  • Use additional cleaning: effervescent tablets that are sold in pharmacies to clean this type of equipment are very effective. You must immerse the device in a glass of water and place a tablet. The action of the bubbles clean it without damaging it, reaching areas that are difficult to access. It is recommended to use them only once a week. Using baking soda or vinegar can also be helpful.
  • Attend regular dental checkups: To ensure that the retainer is working properly, it is necessary to go to check-ups with the orthodontist on a regular basis. In general, check-ups are usually three, six and twelve months after the orthodontics has been completed.

Dental retainers to keep your smile

After performing orthodontic treatment and having obtained the desired results, maintaining these effects is necessary. Dental retainers serve to help the body adapt to this new position and do not return to the previous situation.

It is one more phase of the treatment that should not be skipped for the results to last. If not, the pieces will move and go out of alignment again.

Using dental retainers is easy and comfortable. Meeting this final moment of orthodontics allows the patient to maintain the smile they achieved.