Retainers 101

It’s the New Year, which means plenty of New Year’s resolutions. This 2019 make one of your resolutions to keep your teeth straight by properly using your retainer!
Orthodontists typically recommend wearing a retainer after completing orthodontic treatment. But what exactly is a retainer, why do you need to wear it, and how do you care for it?

What is a Retainer?

Retainers are custom-made orthodontic devices made to help prevent your teeth from moving out of their new straight positions after orthodontic treatment. Retainers are made of plastic and metal and designed to fit the top of the teeth and mouth. They are meant to be used for an extended period of time and are often assigned as part of your dental care routine for as long as you wore your braces. Some patients may only need to wear retainers during sleep, others may be asked to wear them full-time. Your Chicago and Vernon Hills orthodontist will have the best recommendations on when to wear your retainers and for how long. Not following recommendations from your orthodontist could lead to your teeth shifting back to the positions they were in before you wore braces, so it is important to follow your specific dental care instructions.

Why Else Would You Need to Wear a Retainer?

There are several additional reasons why you may need to wear a retainer past the fact that the appliances keep teeth straight after wearing braces. Those reasons could include:

  • Curbing speech defects  - it can be difficult to pronounce certain sounds if your teeth are not where they are supposed to be, as you may not be able to place your tongue behind your teeth in the right way. Retainers can help alleviate this issue.
  • Treating headaches/Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) - if you have frequent headaches and jaw pain, then your orthodontist may prescribe a retainer as part of your dental care, as TMD is a condition where your top and bottom teeth do not align properly. Also, having a retainer can prevent your teeth from grinding in your sleep which is often the cause of headaches that last until the next day
  • Close a space between teeth/move a single tooth - in some cases, retainers are a piece of dental care prescribed by your orthodontist instead of braces to adjust only one or a few teeth instead of the entire mouth, like fixing a gap between two teeth.
  • Other medical problems - while retainers are generally dental appliances that orthodontists utilize to help your teeth stay straight, they may be used to treat a medical problem like tongue thrust - where your tongue sneaks through your teeth when you talk.

How to Take Care of Your Retainers

Because retainers are generally worn daily per your orthodontist’s instructions, they should also be cleaned daily. Bacteria, plaque, and leftover food particles can easily stick to your retainers, so they should be soaked in mouthwash or a denture-cleaning agent to kill those germs and freshen the appliances up. Whenever you are not wearing your retainers, you may want to consider letting them soak as well because retainers are made of plastic and plastic can crack if it gets too dry; it should always stay moist. The plastic can also warp, so be sure not to use warm water or leave retainers near a heat source.
Furthermore, retainers can be expensive, so taking good care of these appliances as part of your dental care routine also means not losing them. If you lose a retainer please let us know at our Chicago or Vernon Hills office and we will create a replacement before your next visit. And if have any questions or concerns about your retainer, do not hesitate to contact us directly.

Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics Can Help Keep Your Smile Straight!

Whether you need braces or a retainer, already have them, or just have questions about your appliances in general, your orthodontists and the whole team at Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics are ready to help keep your smile straight by addressing all of your orthodontic needs! Schedule an appointment online today with our Chicago or Vernon Hills office!