At end of orthodontic treatment the teeth are in a different position in the mouth than they were at the start. The bone surrounding the teeth and the gums must adapt to the new tooth position and during this time the teeth may move. Retainers are necessary to keep the teeth in their new position while the bone and gums adapt.
The bone, gums and surrounding structures around the teeth are changing throughout life and therefore teeth can move any time throughout life whether or not they have been moved with orthodontic treatment. To ensure that teeth remain in the position that they have been placed after orthodontic treatment, retainers must be worn indefinitely. Retainers are not only 'retaining' the new tooth position but also preventing 'late changes' that can occur anytime.
A removable retainer can be removed by the patient. There are different designs of removable retainer depending on the initial problem. Dr Gibilaro will instruct you how often to wear the removable retainer; it is usually every night initially.
Removable retainers can last for many years depending on how well they are cared for and also whether or not you grind your teeth at night.
A fixed retainer consists of a thin multi-stranded wire which is customised and bonded to the backs of the front teeth. This type of retainer does not show and the patient will soon forget it is there. It is removed by the orthodontist if it is no longer needed.
It is important that a fixed retainer is checked regularly either by your orthodontist or general dentist. Fixed retainers usually last for many years. The fixed retainer can break, or the composite (glue) that is bonding the retainer to the tooth may wear down or come unstuck. The retainer wire can also sometimes distort or stretch and cause the teeth to move.
It is important that the teeth and gums are kept clean around the fixed retainer. Flossing up and down is no longer possible on the teeth with the fixed retainer attached to them so other cleaning methods must be applied to clean between the teeth. Floss threaders, Tepe brushes, Superfloss and Waterpix are some of the methods used. Your dental hygienist will be used to demonstrating how to clean around a fixed retainer.