Going through the process of getting orthodontic care will introduce you to words and concepts that you may not have known before. The different elements of the braces, as well as the processes you will go through during each appointment, will be reviewed during your initial orthodontist appointment. Getting a retainer after braces is a common practice.

What Are Retainers?

Retainers are oral devices that are used to preserve the alignment of your teeth after braces. Throughout orthodontic treatment, your teeth are slowly moved into alignment. If you use braces, your teeth will move closer into position after each visit to the orthodontist. Changing bands, wires, and tightening everything up during your appointments are all part of the process of aligning your teeth and your bite. If you choose Invisalign or some other type of clear aligner, your teeth are slowly moved with each new set of aligners.

The movement that happens with orthodontic treatment does not automatically stop once your braces are removed. Your teeth can revert back to the way they were overtime or move a little bit out of alignment. Even slight movement in your teeth can cause issues with your bite. How do retainers work? Teeth retainers are designed to keep your teeth from moving after you are finished with braces or Invisalign. The dental retainer is customized to your mouth and teeth so that it is the right fit to prevent your teeth from moving. The American Association of Orthodontists points out that retainers provide you with the best option for preventing unwanted movement.

What Are the Benefits of Dental Retainers?

The major benefit of dental retainers is that they prevent your teeth from moving. You may have just spent a couple of years wearing braces or Invisalign and going to regular appointments to get your teeth perfectly aligned. All of that time, effort, and money will feel like it was wasted if your teeth start to move and become misaligned again. Clear retainers and traditional retainers that use a wire are both designed to keep your teeth in place. Being proactive about wearing your retainer after your orthodontic treatment is complete will help you avoid issues with your bite and the possibility of needing additional orthodontic treatment in the future.

How Often Do You Have to Wear a Retainer?

The exact schedule you will be on for wearing your retainer will depend on your unique situation. General guidelines involve wearing your retainer around the clock for a short period of time after you have your braces removed – possibly for a few months. After that initial stage, many people can move to a schedule that involves wearing the retainer only during the night. Each person is different, which means it is important to follow the instructions outlined by your orthodontist when it comes to wearing your retainer.

How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer?

If you just finished up with months or years’ worth of orthodontic treatment, your first questions about retainers are likely to be, ‘Do I have to wear my retainer forever?’ and ‘When can I stop wearing my retainer?’ These are common questions that orthodontists get from frustrated patients who thought the days of having oral devices in their mouths were over. The good news is that wearing a retainer constantly is typically only required temporarily. Your orthodontist may recommend sleeping with your retainer for the rest of your life. You will get used to the process quickly, and it can help you avoid needing braces again in the future.

Types of Retainers and Cost

There is more than one type of retainer. The traditional retainer for the upper teeth is made using a mold of your mouth. Part of the retainer fits into the top of your mouth and has a wire connected to it that goes around your teeth. There is also an option for a removable bottom retainer that is similarly designed.

Another type of retainer to consider is the Invisalign retainer or a clear retainer. This type of retainer is designed to fit snuggly over your teeth and is clear to keep your smile unobstructed. If you have been using Invisalign, the retainer will be similar to the aligners you wore during your treatment.

You also have the option of getting permanent retainers. These retainers are affixed to the back of your teeth, and you do not take them in and out. Your orthodontist will help you determine if a removable or permanent retainer is right for you.

The cost of retainers varies depending on which one is right for you. Permanent retainers have the highest initial cost, but you will not need to replace them in the future. You do not risk losing or damaging a permanent retainer, so retainer replacement will not be a cost you have to consider. Removable retainers can cost a few hundred dollars and go up to over a thousand – depending on the type you need. The good news is that dental insurance may help offset some of that cost. In addition, your orthodontist may offer a payment plan that covers the entirety of your treatment, including the retainer.

Permanent vs. Removable Retainers

There are both permanent and removable retainer options. You can take a removable retainer out when it is time to eat or brush your teeth. At first, you may wear the removable retainer around the clock, but eventually, you will only have to wear it while you sleep.

Permanent retainers are attached to the back of your teeth using a bonding agent. The retainer is basically a wire that is shaped to follow the curve of your teeth. This type of retainer can help your teeth stay put without showing when you talk or smile. You can eat and drink normally with a permanent retainer. You will need to give special attention to cleaning the teeth with the permanent retainer, but the process is not as complicated as caring for your teeth while you have braces.

Your orthodontist will recommend the type of retainer that is right for your situation. Some people have only removable retainers or only permanent retainers, while others have a combination.

Other Considerations for Retainer Costs

The long-term cost of retainers is a factor worth considering if your orthodontist gives you a choice of retainer. Some retainers – like clear retainers – have to be replaced regularly to maintain their shape and effectiveness. They may cost less up front but end up costing you more in the long run. Permanent retainers may seem expensive compared to the other options, but they require little maintenance and can last for many years to come. If your orthodontist thinks either option will work for you, consider convenience and cost as you compare the options.  

What If I Need to Replace My Retainer?

Retainer replacement is a possibility – especially if you have a removable retainer. If you lose the retainer or damage it in some way, it is important to get it replaced as quickly as possible. Your teeth can start to shift quickly. The shifting may not be noticeable at first, but you will feel it once you get your replacement retainer. The simplest way to get a replacement for your retainer is to reach out to your orthodontist. You may have to go in and have a mold made of your mouth again in order for the retainer to be made, depending on how long ago you got the original retainer.

Caring for My Retainer

Caring for your removable retainer will involve storing and cleaning it properly. If you are wearing your retainer throughout the day, be sure and carry your case with you. Any time you remove the retainer to eat or drink, put it in the case immediately. The quickest way to lose or damage your retainer is to remove it and fail to put it in the case.

It is also important to clean your retainer regularly. If you are in a place where you only have to wear it at night, it is a good idea to clean it before you put it in at night and after you take it out in the morning. Many retainers can be cleaned using the same products you use for your teeth. If your retainer requires a special cleaning process, your orthodontist will outline that for you.

How to Get a Child in the Habit of Wearing a Retainer

Establishing the habit of wearing a removable retainer may seem difficult at first — especially if you have a child who needs to wear a retainer. The simplest way to get a child in the habit of wearing a retainer is to make it part of the nightly and morning routines. Create a special place in the bathroom for the retainer case. Keeping the case in the same location and within easy view will provide a visual cue for your child to put the retainer in at night and remove it in the morning. With time and consistency, your child can develop the habit of wearing a retainer. 

Find an Orthodontist Near Me

If you are looking for help with any stage of orthodontic care, check out the Find a Dentist tool from Smile Generation. This tool can help you find a top-notch orthodontist in your area that can help you address any issues you have with your braces, aligners, or retainer.