At the completion of the active phase of your orthodontic treatment you begin the period we call retention. To retain means to hold. In the case of your teeth, they must be retained or held in their new positions until the tissues, meaning the bone, the elastic membrane surrounding the root, the gingivae or gums, and the tongue and lips have adapted themselves to the new tooth positions. If we did not make an effort to retain the teeth following orthodontic movement, they would tend to move back to their original positions. It is extremely important to wear your retainers as directed! Teeth have amazing memories, and we want your great, new smile to last forever.
Here are some pictures of various types retainers. The type of retainer you end up with will be determined by your orthodontist, depending on individual needs.
Example of clear, upper retainer in the mouth:
The length of time the teeth must be retained, of course, varies with each individual. The average patient must be retained about eighteen months to two years, some even indefinitely. In most cases, some type of retainer is usually required until the third molars, or wisdom teeth, have erupted or have been extracted. Often, the latter part of the retention period will require retainer wear only while sleeping.
On certain types of completed cases we find it wise to use a rubber or plastic mouthpiece called a finishing appliance (also called a "positioner"). By making minor corrections on the plaster molds of your teeth, taken at the time the fixed appliances are removed, we are able to make subtle changes. The appliance is made and worn in the mouth to gently massage the teeth into a finer relationship. Should you have this type of retainer, you will be given specific instructions concerning its wear at the time you receive it.
It has been our experience that retainers are not broken and certainly cannot be lost while in your mouth (unless, of course, you lose your mouth!). Find a safe place to keep it (pets often try to wear them unsuccessfully). However, should it become lost or broken, please notify our office immediately so that we can replace it as soon as possible. Teeth can start moving anytime your not wearing your retainers.