Patients of Dougherty Orthodontics, in St. Louis, work hard to restore their smiles. That process often involves braces. But did you know braces aren’t the end of your orthodontic journey? Think of your smile as more than just part of your body. Instead, view it as an investment. You’d want to protect an investment, right? That’s where retainers come in. Retainers help preserve your new smile over a lifetime. But if you’ve ever been curious about why you need to wear a retainer, we’re here to help.
What Distinguishes Retainers From Braces
While braces and retainers both serve the purpose of straightening teeth, they differ in several significant ways. Braces use metal brackets and wires to shift your teeth into the desired position gradually. As you probably know, Dr. Dougherty periodically reactivates the wires to ensure your teeth move as planned.
Retainers, on the other hand, maintain the position of your teeth after you’ve completed your braces treatment. They prevent your teeth from returning to their original position. Yes, that can and WILL happen!
Another difference between braces and retainers is how long you’ll need to wear them. Braces typically take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to achieve the desired results. But you’ll wear a retainer for life. Dr. Dougherty will determine each patient’s wear time after their treatment is completed. You’ll place the retainer in before you go to sleep and remove it the following morning.
How Does a Retainer Work?
When designing your retainer, our Dougherty Orthodontics team will start with the structure of your teeth. Just like your braces, we will engineer your retainer for you specifically. We do not practice any one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, your retainer will fit your teeth and no one else’s. This will ensure it performs as intended to deliver the results you expect.
Some retainers are removable, and others are not (more on that below). It’s important to familiarize yourself with your appliance and follow the doctor’s instructions to the letter.
Types of Retainers
As we mentioned, there are two main types of retainers: removable and fixed. Let’s take a closer look at each type.
Removable retainers are the most common type at Dougherty Orthodontics. We make them from a transparent plastic material that fits snugly over your teeth. The plastic is custom-molded to fit the shape of your teeth, ensuring a comfortable fit.
One of the benefits of removable retainers is that you can take them in and out of your mouth as needed. This makes eating, brushing your teeth, and flossing easy without worrying about damaging your retainer.
However, losing or damaging your retainer is always risky because they’re removable. To avoid this, be sure to keep your retainer in its case when you’re not wearing it.
If you are a candidate, fixed retainers bond to the back of your teeth with special dental cement. So, you don’t have to worry about taking them in and out of your mouth, but it also means they can be a bit more challenging to clean.
One of the advantages of fixed retainers is that they’re always working to keep your teeth in the correct position, even when you’re not actively thinking about it. They’re also less likely to get lost or damaged since they’re permanently attached to your teeth.
However, because they’re fixed, they can make it more difficult to floss and brush your teeth properly. Our incredible team at Dougherty Orthodontics in St. Louis will provide you with special flossing tools to help you keep your teeth and retainer clean.
Caring for Your Retainer
Caring for your retainer is crucial if you want it to last and work effectively. Here are some tips for properly caring for your retainer:
- Keep it clean.
- Just like with braces, food particles can get stuck in your retainer, leading to bacteria buildup and potential oral health problems. Be sure to clean your retainer daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and mild soap.
- Keep it safe.
- When you’re not wearing your retainer, be sure to keep it in its case. Doing so will help protect it from damage and keep it from getting lost.
- Avoid heat.
- Your retainer is made of plastic, which can melt if exposed to heat. Keep your retainer away from hot water, dishwashers, and direct sunlight.
- Wear it as Dr. Dougherty instructed.
- You’ve got to wear your retainer for the prescribed amount of time each day, as the doctor recommends.
Get Your Retainer At Dougherty Orthodontics
Still have questions about retainers in St. Louis? Come visit our team at Dougherty Orthodontics! Head here to schedule a free consultation.