Dental Orthodontic Essix retainers
Essix retainers are a clear molded plastic that fits snugly over your teeth. They look very similar to clear dental aligners used for orthodontic treatments, such as Invisalign. Because of this, many people often wonder if these retainers are able to move teeth. While retainers are designed to keep teeth in place after orthodontic treatment, there are cases when they can be used to make minor teeth shifts. This usually happens when orthodontic relapse occurs. While they can act like aligners, a retainer’s main goal is to support your teeth in their new position.
What is Orthodontic Relapse?
Orthodontic relapse is a condition where the teeth begin to shift back to their pre-orthodontic treatment location. This typically occurs when a person does not wear their retainer as prescribed. Your retainer is designed to hold teeth in their new position while the surrounding tissue and bone heal around the new tooth location. This is why wearing a retainer is so important for the first few months to a year following treatment.
In addition to a lack of retainer wear, orthodontic relapse can also occur as a result of normal aging, tooth loss, or regular teeth grinding. Wearing a retainer a few nights a week for life can help reduce the risk of these potential orthodontic relapse causes.
If you don’t wear your retainer as prescribed, shifting may occur. During orthodontic treatment, your teeth slowly move into their new positions. This movement breaks down the supporting tissue and bone during movement. Once your teeth reach their ideal position, it takes time for new supporting tissue and bone to develop. Your retainer holds your teeth in their new position until this occurs.
If during those first few months, you don’t wear your retainer on a regular basis, you may notice one day that your retainer has become a bit uncomfortable or doesn’t fit at all. This likely means that your teeth have shifted. In cases where the shift is minimal and your retainer still fits, increasing the time you wear your retainer may be enough to move your teeth back to the desired position. In other words, returning to your original retainer wear, often for 20+ hours a day, every day, can return or move your teeth back to the ideal position.
If, however, your retainer no longer fits at all, you need to see your orthodontist. Your teeth may have shifted too much and require additional orthodontic treatment. A series of Essix aligners can slowly move your teeth back to their desired position.
The Difference Between Retainers and Aligners
Aligners move your teeth slowly and in small stages, similar to traditional braces. With aligners, you get several sets of aligners, all with a slightly different position, with the goal of moving your teeth into their desired alignment over time. While they are the same material as Essix retainers, their goal is not to keep your teeth in one position.
For detailed information on retainers and aligners, read our blog “Is There a Difference Between Retainers and Invisalign?”
The goal of Essix retainers is to simply keep your teeth in their desired position. The goal is not to move or straighten your teeth. Instead, the goal is to prevent orthodontic relapse and the natural shifting that occurs with age.
Because orthodontic relapse can occur at any time, regular retainer wear is essential throughout your life. While Essix retainers are durable and can last for a couple of years when taken care of, you will need to replace your retainer numerous times throughout your life. At SportingSmiles, we offer Essix and Essix Plus retainers at a fraction of the price you would pay through your orthodontist and make ordering replacement retainers easy. For more information, visit SportingSmiles today.