First, it is important to understand a few things about tooth movement AFTER orthodontics:
There are two general categories of retainers: Removable and Fixed (glued in). There are pros and cons to each retainer type. Often, the way your teeth started will play a role in which type of retainer we recommend. Regardless, when it comes time to plan for retainers, we will have a group discussion (patient/parent/doctor) to make sure the best option is chosen for each patient.
Removable retainers are self-explanatory – you can take them out! They can be made for your upper arch and your lower arch.
Fixed retainers are glued to the inside (tongue side) of your front teeth. They are commonly placed on the back of the lower front six teeth (canine to canine). Due to the nature of an ideal bite, with the lower front teeth biting against the back of the upper front teeth, it is often not possible to place a fixed retainer on the upper. There are a few exceptions to this rule, that we will discuss if they apply to you.
Fixed retainers are nice because they are always in! However, they make flossing more difficult. They are only an option for patients with EXCELLENT dental hygiene. If you would like this type of retainer, then be sure to demonstrate superb hygiene habits while you are in active treatment!
Fixed retainers are permanent in the sense that you cannot remove them, but they are not permanent in the sense that they will last forever. With time, after being exposed to the oral environment and biting forces, your fixed retainer may break or become unglued. When this happens, come find us (or your local orthodontist) immediately. We will chat with you about the pros/cons of repairing/replacing the fixed retainer, or changing to a removable option.
Because retention is so important and such an integral part to successful orthodontic treatment, they are included with your treatment plan. Meaning, they are neither optional nor an additional cost.
We will give you specific wear and care instructions when you receive your retainer. But, expect that we will ask you to wear your retainers every night indefinitely, or for as long as you want to keep your teeth straight.
We will continue to check your teeth, bite, and retainer fit periodically for the first 18-24 months after active treatment. At that point, we will give you a big hug and say, “Come find us if you need us! And don’t quit wearing your retainer!” Anytime your retainer is lost or broken, call us right away to repair or remake it. Should you move away and lose or break a retainer, find a local orthodontist asap.