Retention

Your Tinley Park Orthodontist

At the office of Dr. Thomas C. Sonneveld, our mission is to provide you with the highest quality orthodontic care possible in a fun, friendly environment. We strive to use the latest innovations in orthodontic technology, including Invisalign and non-traditional braces, to offer you the absolute best treatment in the most convenient way possible. At our practice, we understand that the success of orthodontic treatment isn't just about what happens during treatment – it's about what happens after as well.

Retention Therapy With Your Orland Park, IL Orthodontist

On a day not too far from now (although we know it may seem a lot farther than it is), your braces will come off. This is a big moment! You'll be free from bands and brackets, finally able to eat all the chewy, sticky foods you want, and will run your tongue over smooth, clean teeth. But even on this wonderful day, remember that you're not quite done with your orthodontic treatment yet: the next phase, called retention, is absolutely crucial to keeping the smile you worked so hard to achieve.

Retention is the critical follow-up stage, typically involving wearing an orthodontic appliance called a retainer. There are a variety of kinds of retainers available, all of them custom-made to perfectly fit your teeth. Based on your unique treatment situation, we'll recommend which type (or types) you should use, and we'll tell you exactly when and how long you need to wear them.

We know what you're thinking – if my teeth are already straight, why do I need a retainer? The short answer is, if you don't wear one, your teeth will move right back to where they started – all of your hard-won progress will be erased!

Teeth aren't set rigidly in the jawbone – they're actually held in place by a network of fibers called periodontal ligaments. After they've been moved through orthodontic treatments, it takes several months for the periodontal ligaments to adjust to the new position. So if you want to keep your new smile – and not waste all of the time, effort, and money it took to get it – it's absolutely essential to use your retainer as directed.

Usually, we'll fit you for a retainer the same day that we remove your braces. Once your teeth are thoroughly cleaned (and finally free of brackets and wires), we may take another set of X-rays and/or bite impressions to check where your teeth are and how your wisdom teeth are developing. Then, we'll discuss your retainer and begin to prepare it for your use.

Three Types of Retainers

There are three basic types of retainers available, each one suited to a particular situation. The most common is the "Hawley" retainer – a thin, tongue-shaped piece of molded acrylic with a wire that holds your teeth in position. The Hawley retainer is simple, durable, and easily removable – it's even customizable with different colors and designs for the plastic arch. If necessary, it can also be adjusted to correct minor tooth movements.

Another popular style of retainer is the clear aligner, which looks similar to the Invisalign system. These retainers are made of thin, transparent plastic, designed to fit precisely over your teeth. The main advantage to these is that they're virtually invisible – no wire to show. While they're also easy to put in and take out, they're somewhat less durable than Hawleys and are not recommended for patients with certain conditions, like teeth grinding.

Finally, fixed retainers can be an option for some people, particularly on the lower front teeth. As their name suggests, these retainers aren't removable – but they aren't visible either. Just like lingual braces, these retainers use a wire bonded to the tongue-side of the teeth. They may remain in place for months or longer, and are usually used when there's a high risk that teeth could revert to their former position. Don't worry, though – while these retainers are permanent, they won't be visible like your braces were!

Time to Adjust

After a short adjustment period, wearing a retainer is very easy for most patients. Some may find that they salivate more than usual for a day or so when first wearing a retainer – this is a normal reaction to a foreign object in the mouth. You may also find it a little harder to talk normally at first, but as your mouth adjusts, that problem will soon disappear. Removable retainers should be taken out for eating or brushing your teeth – that means no more dietary restrictions, and oral hygiene just got way easier!

At first, you'll probably need to wear your removable retainer all day, every day. This period of constant use generally lasts several months to a year. Later on, we may say it's alright to wear it only at night, and finally, you'll probably just need it a few nights a week.

Maintaining – and Retaining – Your Retainer

To stay fresh and free from bacteria, all retainers need proper cleaning. A Hawley-type retainer can simply be brushed gently with a regular toothbrush – however, a brush may scratch clean aligners. Denture cleaners, in powder or tablet form, as well as specialized retainer cleaners, can be used to clean almost any removable retainer. Fixed retainers can be cleaned by brushing and flossing, although a floss threader and interproximal (Christmas-tree) brush can be helpful tools for keeping everything clean.

Finally, remember to always carry – and use – a retainer case. You'd be surprised how many stories we hear of retainers put into a folded napkin and accidentally thrown away! Don't expose your retainer to excess heat by washing it in very hot water or leaving it on a heater – this can warp the retainer and make it unusable. Through proper care and vigilant, conscientious use, a retainer can provide a smooth transition from braces to a beautiful, healthy smile that will last a lifetime.

Contact Your Tinley Park, IL Orthodontist

If you have more questions about retention or your orthodontic health, feel free to reach out to us on our Contact page or request an appointment at our Orland Park, IL practice. We can’t wait to hear from you!