Once you have invested time and money into your perfect smile, it is important to retain it. Orthodontic retention happens as soon as your braces are removed. Any teeth that are not retained, will move. Orthodontic retention is a long term, individualized plan. This not only retains the teeth in the current position, but prevents them from reverting back to their previous position and enhances the long-term cosmetics of your new smile.
It may seem your teeth are straight on the surface, however, under the soft tissue (gums) there is bone and ligaments that needs to continue to conform to your new alignment. Retainers will retain the teeth in the position that the orthodontic appliance (braces or Invisalign) had them, it will not move or shift the teeth. During the first 6 months after treatment, retainers are usually worn 24 hours per day. After this period most orthodontists or providers will recommend wearing your retainer each night. Each patient will have different requirements, which will be discussed during your consultation and after treatment has completed.
Teeth have a natural tendency to crowd as we age, especially in the mandibular anterior (lower front) region. This crowding will occur whether or not the individual has been treated with orthodontics. This change and growth begin to occur during late ten years and continues throughout life. Many adults today are faced with the challenge of orthodontic relapse due to no long term retention goals. Orthodontics were placed when they were pre-teen or teenagers and they have long lost the infamous retainers provided. Invisalign is a perfect solution for orthodontic relapse cases.
The aligners are completely transparent, virtually unnoticeable. This method allows adults to straighten their teeth and correct their bite without the traditional look of brackets and wires. Aligners also avoid many of the side effects of traditional brackets and wires such as demineralization and tooth decay, root resorption (shortening of the roots), prevention of x-rays during routine check-ups (traditional brackets and wires can prevent accurate placement of films and digital sensors) , and change in diet due to food restrictions. Invisalign only requires visits every 4-6 weeks as the aligners gradually align your teeth every two weeks with the changing of aligners. This is especially beneficial to those that travel often for business, as they are able to continue progressing through their treatment without making visits to the provider’s office every month. Invisalign also is less painful than traditional orthodontic due to smaller more frequent movements and less force per week, than traditional orthodontics with greater force applied every 4-6 weeks.
Once you are happy with your smile, you will be faced with choosing a retainer. There are three popular retainer types, bonded retainers, Essix (clear) retainers, and the Hawley retainer. Bonded retainers are cemented directly to the lingual (inside or tongue side) surface of your anterior (front) teeth. With this type of retainer the patient must be diligent about cleaning the inside surface of the teeth and the wire as well. Depending on the bite, this retainer may or may not be an option for you as the bonding material could break and the teeth will have an opportunity to shift. The Essix retainer is similar to an Invisalign aligner. It is a transparent removable retainer that fits over your teeth and produced from a mold. This retainer does not contain any wire or metal and sometimes can be used to produce small tooth movements, as an aligner does. This is a great option for someone that needs to wear a retainer and also has clenching and grinding issues as it protects the occlusal (biting) surfaces of the teeth. The last retainer is a Hawley retainer, it is fabricated from impressions of your teeth. It is a combination of acrylic and metal which surrounds your 6 front teeth to keep them in position. All 3 of the retainers are good choices, but the best choice is the one you wear!
So if you are faced with orthodontic relapse, or in need of tooth re-alignment set up a consultation with a provider. The choice is clear, when treating an orthodontics or an orthodontic relapse case, Invisalign has many benefits. After completion of any orthodontics, be sure to set a long term retention plan in progress so you keep your smile for a lifetime.