As a teenager you noticed that your smile isn't exactly your biggest asset. Coupled with problems like puberty and acne, you unwillingly and begrudgingly agreed to opt for orthodontic treatment so that one day you can have that enviable set of pearly whites. And after a long wait of nearly two years, which saw you cope with intra-oral wires, brackets, rubber bands and what not, your orthodontist finally tells you that it's time to remove your braces. You're overjoyed and have braced yourself for a life sans braces. But, like always there's a catch - your orthodontist tells you that you'll have to wear retainers for a while. Wearing retainers after braces? How long will this orthodontic treatment take? I waited two years for this? You can't help but curse your orthodontist and wonder why dentistry is such a sinister field. However, there is a simple science and logic behind the need for wearing retainers after you've completed orthodontic treatment. This has been explained below.
Why is Wearing Retainers Necessary?
Kids breathe a huge sigh of relief after getting their orthodontic braces off and wish to do nothing but show off their new and confident smile of perfectly placed pearly whites. But not so fast. Getting done with the orthodontic treatment is merely half the battle won. You need to wear retainers after braces have been removed for several reasons. Not many people know this but teeth tend to have a 'memory' of sort and they try and revert to their original position after dental braces have been removed. This happens for several reasons. Teeth are pulled and pushed against their will and made to stay in a certain position. However, the periodontal fibers, that have maintained the tooth in a certain position in the mouth try and pull it back to its original position because of their resiliency. Thus, to maintain teeth in their new positions, you have to hold them there for some time, to prevent relapse of treatment.
Types of Retainers
The good news about getting retainers after orthodontic treatment is that there are various options of retainers available. You can get the regular retainer, which consists of a wire running across from canine to canine and a plastic plate that adheres to the palate for the upper arch and the inner surface of the lower front teeth gums for the lower arch. If you want a more aesthetic option, then you can even opt for clear retainers, which are nothing but invisalign braces or clear plastic retainers. For some patients that are not comfortable with removable appliances, they can even go in for cementation of a fixed wire on the inner surface of upper and lower teeth. This is not only an aesthetic option but is also great for patients that fear they will not be very regular with wearing the retainer. The downside of this option is that it may or may not be a case where this option may be feasible, like if you have a very small overjet. Also, in most cases, the orthodontist will charge you extra for fixed retainers.
This was all about why you have to wear retainers after braces and their different types that are available. The cost of retainers is usually covered in the total orthodontics cost estimate that is quoted at the beginning, although this may vary from place to place. There have been countless cases where patients did not heed the orthodontist's warnings regarding the importance of wearing retainers, due to which eventually there was a relapse and patients even needed to redo the treatment. Do you know what that means? Double the pain plus double the money! So, quit wondering about 'do retainers hurt' (it can't hurt more than the braces) or 'why should I wear retainers now that my braces are off' (don't wear them and be my guest for a second round of orthodontic treatment). So, unless you want a triple blow to your pocket, dental health and mental health, it is best to do as your orthodontist says and wear retainers after your orthodontic treatment for however long it takes to ensure that your newly positioned set of pearly whites stay put for the rest of your life!