After years of treatment with braces or Invisalign, you’re finally ready to see your new smile! You may think that’s the end of your treatment, and in many ways, it is. However, once you have that beautiful smile you’ve always wanted, there is one thing you must do to keep it — wear retainers.
Northwest Orthodontics knows you want to show off that beautiful new smile as much as possible. That’s why we offer our patients clear retainers! Unlike the Hawley wire retainers or permanent retainers, clear retainers are custom designed with a clear acrylic material that’s nearly invisible. You can protect your smile while still showing it off. Let’s explore what a clear retainer is and why it’s so important to use clear retainers after braces.
Clear retainers, sometimes called plastic retainers, look similar to clear aligners such as Invisalign, but they’re designed to work differently. Invisalign is made to move your teeth into their proper positions. Clear retainers are made to keep them exactly where they are and prevent movement.
Clear retainers are made in a similar way to clear aligners. We use digital scanning technology to custom mold the clear retainers for teeth. Your retainers will fit well against your teeth and along your gumline. Because they’re clear, they’re nearly invisible. So you can keep your teeth straight with few noticing you’re wearing a retainer!
Why do you need clear retainers? Braces and Invisalign move your teeth by encouraging the ligaments holding them to loosen and the bones around them to break down and regrow. This allows the teeth to move into their proper positions.
It takes a bit of time for your teeth to learn to move. It also takes time for them to learn to stop moving once the braces are removed. As a result, your teeth can shift back out of place after your braces are removed. In fact, it can take several months for your teeth to “set” properly, meaning the ligaments holding them tighten back up and the bone holding them solidifies again.
That’s where your retainers come in. The retainers keep the teeth in the same positions while your jaw sets properly. They keep your teeth from turning or shifting out of place, so you keep that smile you’ve worked so hard to achieve. But this only works if you wear your retainers as prescribed.
The first few months are the most crucial. You must wear your retainers at least 22 hours a day, taking them off only to eat, brush, or floss. After several months, once your jaw has set, you can reduce the time you wear your retainers, usually to just overnight.
Your retainers can last for years with the proper care. Store them in a protective case when they aren’t in your mouth. Keep them out of the reach of small children or pets that can damage them. The most important thing is to keep your retainers clean. To do that, you need to learn how to clean a retainer properly.
You can clean your clear retainers the same way you clean clear aligners. You should rinse your retainers in lukewarm water each time you remove them. If necessary, use a soft-bristled brush to gently clean plaque from grooves or indentations. NEVER use toothpaste, because abrasive ingredients in the toothpaste can scratch your clear retainers and make them appear cloudy. You can also find special cleaners specifically for clear retainers and aligners to soak your retainers. If necessary, you can use a mild, clear, liquid soap and lukewarm water. Just be sure to rinse them well.
Keep your retainers clean and protected, and they will last you for years.
So how long do retainers last? It depends on how well they’re maintained and protected. Technically, they can last your lifetime with proper care. In truth, the lifespan of retainers depends on their treatment. Most people can make their retainers last for several years. Over time, though, they can become discolored or brittle without proper care, so they may need to be replaced after only a couple of years.
The bottom line is that the better you care for your retainers, the longer they will last.
Clear retainers are part of your treatment plan with Northwest Orthodontics. We include them after your treatment with us using braces or clear aligners. You can schedule a free consult, then meet with us in our Bentonville, AR, Fayetteville, AR, or Fort Smith, AR, office. Let us show you how to get the smile you’ve always wanted!