Teeth are supported by bone, elastic fibers, and gum tissue, which surround their roots. Braces and orthodontic forces move teeth to a new more ideal and healthier location. As teeth move, the bone is slowly dissolved and the elastic fibers are stretched. In order for the teeth to “retain” their new location, a retention phase of orthodontic treatment is essential. Once the teeth are in their final position, time is needed for regeneration. New bone must grow and firm up around the teeth, stretched fibers dissolve, and new fibers regenerate to support the new location. Note: Typical regeneration takes nine (9) months to complete and will occur when teeth are not allowed to roam. Thus, it is necessary that the retainers be worn day and night consistently. In other words, twenty-three hours a day. Taking them out for meals is permitted.
When retainers are not worn correctly, there may be an unavoidable relapse and shifting of the teeth. We think you will agree, that you have worked too hard, spent too much time, energy, and money, for your new healthier, beautiful smile to have this happen to you.
After nine (9) months, we start a process where the stability of the teeth is tested by cutting back from full time to night time retainer wear in a calculated and controlled process. Your ability to cut back will be related to several factors, such as, severity of the original problem, your cooperation during the first nine (9) months of retainer wear, the presence and position of wisdom teeth, tongue thrusting, clenching/grinding habits, and continued commitment of retainer wear. It is recommended that night time wear continue until the wisdom teeth have grown in completely or have been removed.
At the end of the active retention phase of orthodontic treatment, when wisdom teeth issues have been addressed, we encourage patients to wear their retainers indefinitely at least on a part-time basis to ensure long-term stability. Anytime teeth move, the retainers become tight. This is your signal that you have gone too long without wearing them. As long as the retainers are fitting comfortably, teeth are remaining stable. The body is dynamic and just as we age, our skin tends to wrinkle, our hair turns gray, our teeth tend to wander and move. Fortunately, the movement is usually subtle and slow but nevertheless can occur. The more severe the original problem, the greater the tendency some degree of relapse will occur. Wearing your retainers on an every night basis indefinitely is the best guarantee possible to keep your teeth in their proper position.
If for any reason retainers cannot be worn, call for an appointment immediately. Don’t adjust or tamper with the retainer. Anytime the retainer is out of your mouth, it is to be kept in the retainer case we provided. Your continued cooperation in this last phase of orthodontic treatment is very important.