You spend months or years wearing braces with the goal of a straight and beautiful smile. Once the braces come off, it’s time for a celebration! Until, of course, the orthodontist brings out the retainer and tells you your treatment isn’t over yet. And, in all honesty, won’t ever really be over! WHAT?? Do you really have to wear this retainer all the time? It can’t really make that big of a difference, right? The truth is, wearing your retainer is the part of your orthodontic care that really helps you keep that brand-new smile!
To better understand why wearing a retainer is so important, let’s take a look at biology and how your teeth work.
The Biology of Your Teeth, Braces, and Wearing a Retainer
Your teeth are connected to your bone by tiny ligaments and connective tissue. These tiny ligaments allow for slight movement of your teeth when you eat and work as shock absorbers, creating a small space between the teeth and bone. This space is known as the periodontal ligament space.
Braces apply a constant force to these ligaments in the direction of the desired movement. This force stretches the ligaments (tension) on one side of the tooth and compresses it on the other. Once your body senses this regular pressure, biology kicks in and changes occur. The body begins adding osteoblasts, or bone cells, to the tension side while osteoclasts begin breaking down existing bone on the compression side. This breaking down and rebuilding of bone is what allows the teeth to move into their new position and what eventually keeps them in their new position.
The problem is new bone growth takes time. While you have your braces on, the wires keep the pressure on your teeth and keep them in place. But once the wires come off, nothing is stopping your teeth from slipping back into their old position, as that new bone growth can take 9 to 12 months to complete. This is where retainers become an essential part of your treatment. Your retainer is the only thing keeping your smile in place! This is the reason your orthodontist places such an emphasis on everyday wear for the first 6 to 12 months. Your retainer provides continual pressure to your teeth, keeping them in their desired location while the bone finishes growing.
Your Teeth and Aging
While your orthodontist probably recommended regular daily wear of your retainer for the first year, after that time, they often suggest nighttime wearing at least a few times a week for the rest of your life. But why? When the new bone stops growing and your tooth is in place, it can’t move anymore, right? WRONG!
Unfortunately, as you age, biology messes with your teeth in a variety of ways. Enamel loss from injury or erosion can change the shape of your teeth, causing them to move out of alignment. If you suffer from bruxism, or nighttime teeth grinding, this can also slowly change your teeth alignment. Poor oral hygiene and plaque buildup can contribute to tooth loss or gum disease, which can also cause your teeth to move.
As you age, your teeth naturally shift forward, changing your bite and undoing your orthodontic work. Regular retainer wear, such as an Essix retainer from SportingSmiles, can help prevent this shifting and maintain your smile.
On top of all that, a natural biological process called mesial drift occurs as you age. Throughout your life, your teeth are slowly moving towards the front of your dental arch. This natural drift can contribute to overcrowding of the front teeth.
This is why many orthodontists recommend wearing a dental retainer at least a few nights a week throughout your life. Regular retainer use will help keep your teeth in position after braces, as well as help to reduce the gradual shifting that occurs with age.
Your Retainer Will Not Last Forever
The problem is retainers are not made to last forever. They need to be replaced when they become broken or damaged or you notice they are not fitting right. Unfortunately, when something happens to a retainer, many people just forget it and do not replace them because of the need for new molds and time it takes to get a replacement.
SportingSmiles understands how time-consuming dental appointments for a new retainer can be and offer a way to replace your retainer without the added time and expense of a dental visit. Our patented self-impression mold kit allows you to make your mold in the comfort of your own home. Simply return the new mold to us and our technicians will create a new replacement Essix or Essix Plus retainer and send it to you. Don’t let shifting teeth take away all the hard work you went through. Wear your retainer as directed and on a regular basis and keep that smile looking as good as it did the day the braces came off!