Do I have to wear retention when I finish my orthodontics?

This is a very common question in an orthodontic office, both from people who are about to start treatment and have heard about retainers and from patients who are already finishing their treatment and who have doubts: What if my teeth move again? To all of them we explain the same thing: your teeth are going to move again. If we do nothing to avoid it, of course. Hence the importance of what we are going to explain in today's blog: the retention phase.

The first thing to clarify, because there is a lot of greyness and doubt about this, perhaps due to orthodontic procedures of years ago, is that the retention phase is the phase of the retention of the patient. essential and that all patients will wear retainers after orthodontics. It has nothing to do with specific cases or specific morphology of each patient, but with the risk of relapse that any person can suffer.

The relapseThe fact that the teeth move again from their final position after treatment in an attempt to return to their initial position is caused by a histological and morphological response of the supporting tissues of the teeth, which tends to return them to their initial position. It is as if the tooth has a 'memory' and tries to return to 'its place'.

In reality, it is because:

  • The gingiva and periodontium need time for reorganisation and stabilisation
  • The perioral musculature and the adjacent structures exert pressures
  • The development of growing patients involves dimensional changes in their mouths.

And that is why, in order to guarantee the stability of the treatment and that no unwanted movement occurs, we need retention appliances that immobilise the teeth once the orthodontic treatment is completed: the so-called retainers.

Let's see what kind of retainers are placed after orthodontic treatment.

Types of retainers

Fixed retainer

Also known as a lingual retainer, it is a stainless steel wire made of a metal alloy that 'fixes' the teeth together, preventing unwanted movement of the teeth. It is placed on the lingual or inner sides of the teeth and from canine to canine. The most common question patients often ask themselves is: will I notice it? Although it may seem the opposite, because it adapts completely to the tooth, it does not cause any discomfort for the patient. Although during the first few days it is inevitable that we will touch it often with our tongue, as time goes by we will not even remember that we have it.

Whenever possible, they are cemented in both the upper and lower arches, although sometimes it is not possible due to the patient's occlusion, which makes it impossible to place them in the upper arch for reasons of space. This is why it is more common to see it in the lower arch.

Removable retainers

The removable retainer, also known as essix, is a dental splint (like a kind of mould of the teeth) that is made after taking the measurements of the patient's mouth at the end of orthodontic treatment and whose aim is to maintain the dental position, which is why they have a certain degree of rigidity.

Made of biocompatible plastic, we must use them to sleep every night. Its use is especially advisable because it also serves as a mouthguard to prevent dental wear due to bruxism, which is becoming more and more common among the general population. 

Caring for your retainers

Once the orthodontic treatment is finished and your fixed and removable retainers are in place, the next phase is perhaps the most important: maintenance. It is important to take care of them and keep them in good condition, for which we give you a series of tips, for example:

Regarding fixed retention, we should know that it prevents the passage of the usual dental floss, so to maintain proper hygiene we must use interproximal brushes, SuperFloss type dental floss to clean under the retainers or a dental irrigator. If you want to know more about these types of dental floss and how to use them properly, you can read here.

With regard to removable retainers, the advice is quite similar to that of invisible orthodontics, so those who have worn them will know how to take care of them. For users of fixed braces, it is enough to know that they should brush with a different toothbrush to the one we use in our mouth and that it should always be with soap and water, as toothpaste will stain them in colour. It is also advisable to use specific effervescent tablets for this type of orthodontics, as, unlike aligners, we are not going to change them, but rather keep them for a long time. At the clinic we can advise you on some of them.