Now that you have been provided with retainers, you may have some questions you would like answered.

What are retainers?

Retainers are custom-made appliances that are used to keep the teeth straight. After braces are removed, teeth will want to move back to their original positions. Wearing retainers will stop the teeth from moving back. Teeth have a tendency to move throughout all our lives so if you like the position your teeth now, you will need to wear a retainer for as long as you want them to stay there. This movement of teeth occurs whether we have had braces or not.

What types of retainers are there?

Fixed retainers are skinny wires on the inside of the front teeth.

Removable retainers are made of clear plastic or pink acrylic with a silver wire. Generally, patients will be provided with a combination of fixed and removable retainers.

What should I expect when I get retainers?

Fixed retainers will take a few days to get use to. The tip of your tongue will keep playing with the retainer and may get a bit sore. You will also notice that food will get caught in the fixed retainer although this will significantly improve with time.

Removable retainers will cause you to salivate more than normal, you lips, cheeks, tongue and teeth may feel tender and your bite will feel strange. You may also have a slight lisp. All of these issues will usually resolve after a week of wearing them.

When should I wear retainers?

Fixed retainers cannot be removed unless they are cut off by the orthodontist. They will last around 5 to 7 years after which time they should be replaced.

Removable retainers must be worn as prescribed, initially full-time, except for eating, drinking (drinking plain water with them in is ok), cleaning your teeth and sports that warrant a mouthguard. After eating, and before putting in the retainers, ideally brush your teeth, otherwise rinse your mouth or chew sugar-free gum for a few minutes to remove any food debris. Removable retainers usually last a couple of years and then need to be replaced.

How do I care for them?

Fixed retainers can be cleaned using TePe bottle brushes or SuperFloss. They last many years but like all things in your mouth, they need to be checked periodically. Usually, your dentist is able to check them at your regular check up appointments. If the fixed retainer breaks, you may have to see an orthodontist again to have it repaired or replaced and there is likely to be a charge for this. To make sure they last, avoid crunching ice or hard sweets, don’t chew pens or pencils or open packaging or bottles with your teeth. These activities will damage both your fixed retainer and your teeth!

Removable retainers should be cleaned twice a day with toothpaste and a toothbrush. Do not use whitening toothpastes as these will scratch the plastic. Do not expose the retainers to extremes of temperature so no putting in the fridge or boiling water! About once a week you will need to use a retainer cleaner such as Retainer Brite, to keep your retainer looking new. Always put the retainers in a box when they are not in the mouth, even if it is just for a few minutes. Keep retainers away from pets.

How long will I need to wear retainers?

Fixed retainers should be replaced every 5 to 7 years although the glue may need to be topped up before this time.

Removable retainer standard recommendations are to wear them full-time for 1 to 3 months, then sleeping hours only for a further 9 to 11 months. After that time you will be asked to reduce the wear even further. After 1 year, we ask you to cut out one night per week of wear each month until you are wearing the retainers for sleeping hours between 2 and 8 times per month and you are advised to carry this on indefinitely. You should expect to wear your retainers for as long as you want your teeth to stay in their new position. If you have been told to follow the STANDARD RETAINER WEAR REGIME, wear your removable retainers as outlined below. Remember, if your retainers feel really tight when you put them in, it usually means the teeth are trying to move and so you should wear the retainers more often.

What if I don't wear the retainers?

Fixed retainers are kept in your mouth until they reach the end of their life (5-7 years) and then replaced.

Removable retainers, if not worn or only worn for a short time, will result in your teeth moving. They will have a tendency to move back towards their original positions. Often, they will not go as far back as they were before but they will not be straight either. Remember that if your teeth move, wearing retainers again full-time will not straighten them. You will usually need braces again.

How often will I need to be seen by the orthodontist?

You will not need to see the orthodontist that often when you start to wear retainers. Usually, we will review you 3 months after your braces have been removed and then again 9 months later. After this time, we usually ask you to see you regular dentist for future checks. Any further visits with your orthodontist, after this one year period will be chargeable.

Can I bleach my teeth now?

Patients under 18 cannot have their teeth cosmetically bleached. Adults can, and if you want to, discuss this with your regular dentist.

What if I have a problem with the retainers?

Remember, if at any point you think there is a problem with your fixed or removable retainer, make an urgent appointment with the orthodontist (there may be a fee if it has been more than a year since your braces were removed). Teeth can move very quickly if retainers are damaged or not worn so you should not delay in getting the retainers checked. Sometimes, you are still able to wear the retainers short-term if they have acquired a crack.

Make sure you still wear the removable retainers from time to time because the first sign that there is a problem with your fixed retainer may be that the removable retainer feels tight!

Have a look in I Have A Problem With My Brace where you can find helpful tips on coping with common problems with retainers.

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