HOW LONG IS THE RETENTION PHASE?
When we remove your braces, or after the last aligner for Invisalign, we will begin the retention phase of your treatment. The retention phase lasts for a minimum of 3 years. Your final orthodontic result depends on your retainers, so follow through with the hard work you have put in so far. Remember to remove your retainer before brushing and to brush your retainer with toothpaste or mouthwash and COLD water before replacing it in your mouth. Removable retainers are worn full time for the first TWO MONTHS except for eating, brushing/flossing, and special occasions (singing, sports that require a mouth guard, etc.). After 2 months, you will cut down to night time wear. Over time, you will then reduce your wear to 2-3 nights per week as instructed when you come in for your retention appointments.
FACTORS CAUSING MOVEMENT IN THE RETENTION PHASE
Recent studies have indicated that growth occurs in small amounts throughout life. Thus, teeth and jaws can shift at any time in varying degrees, which usually depend on the original malocclusion, the facial muscle structure and the amount of residual growth.
The retention phase of treatment allows for a majority of growth and settling to occur so that the teeth and jaws are as stable as possible. However, living tissue is always subject to change from posture, muscle pressure and oral habits such as biting your nails or clenching/grinding your teeth which can cause your teeth to shift. The eruption of teeth, dental restorations and the aging process all contribute to unwanted tooth movement.
Some believe that un-erupted third molars (wisdom teeth) are a factor in movement of teeth, but this has not been proven conclusively. Removal of third molars may be recommended due to lack of space for these teeth or due to a poor angle of eruption of these.
The only way to maintain the tooth alignment indefinitely is with lifetime retention. This means wearing a removable retainer 2-3 nights a week on both the upper and lower arches, forever. The other option is to have a fixed retainer that is not removable. This is usually done on the lower arch only. Retainers are designed to maintain the teeth in their corrected positions. It is important that they be worn according to instructions. YOUR TEETH MAY RETURN TO THEIR ORIGINAL POSITIONS IF THIS RETAINER IS NOT WORN AS INSTRUCTED.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR RETAINERS IS QUITE EASY
Use a toothbrush and either toothpaste or mouthwash to clean your retainers. They should be brushed whenever you brush your teeth when you are wearing them full time. When you cut down to wearing just at nights, clean them every morning. You can then soak them in mouthwash during the day if they start to smell. Soaking them in a denture cleaner is also a good method of deodorizing the retainers. Do not wear your retainers while eating. Always put your retainer in the case when it is not in your mouth. Never wrap it in a napkin or tissue as this is the number one reason we hear how retainers are lost.
Be careful where you place your retainers. Keep them out of reach of dogs. For some reason, dogs are attracted to the smell and like to chew on them. This is the number 2 reason why retainers need to be replaced. They are expensive to replace so please be careful with them and follow these instructions.
Always bring your retainers to your retention appointments.
WHY A FIXED BONDED RETAINER?
A bonded retainer is designed to maintain the position of several teeth. A small wire is bonded to the inside surface of your teeth and is not removable.
Avoid biting into anything hard with your front teeth, such as hard fruits and vegetables, hard breads or hard candy. Also avoid chewing sticky, chewy foods such as tootsie rolls and starburst in the area where your fixed retainer is. These things can break or loosen the bonded lingual retainer wire and will require coming into the office to repair the damage. Call us right away if this does happen. If you wait weeks to call us, your teeth may shift. After the third repair/replacement of a lingual fixed wire, there might be a fee for future repairs so be careful what and how you bite into things if you have a fixed retainer.
It is very important to keep this lingual wire clean. When flossing you will need to use a floss threaded or to floss vertically in this area. We will show you how this is done.