People come in all shapes and sizes, and while it would be awesome to be born with perfect teeth and a flawless smile, it’s just not reality. While some of us may come close, a vast majority of the general population have some sort of dental anomaly like an overbite or underbite, gapped teeth, or crowded teeth that trigger the need for orthodontics.
An estimated four million adults and children wear braces at any given time in the United States. Orthodontics isn’t a simple esthetic remedy though. Issues with your teeth can make you more prone to getting cavities and gum disease and can interfere with properly cleaning your teeth while also wreaking havoc on your ability to speak clearly or properly chew your food.
That’s where braces and clear aligners do their work. But the story of addressing teeth issues doesn’t stop the day your orthodontist removes your braces and active treatment ends, says Dr. Jean Seibold McGill at McGill Orthodontics in Easton and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Your newly repositioned teeth need a gentle “reminder,” and that’s where retainers come in.
There are two basic categories of retainers — occlusal splints or mouthguards used to address temporomandibular joint disorder or maintain correct bites, and post-orthodontic treatment retainers, which are used after active orthodontic treatment ends.
Retainers are custom-created dental appliances made from metal, plastic, or a combination of the two. Although in most cases retainers are removable, your orthodontist may recommend a lingual, wire-style retainer that is bonded to the back of your teeth.
For most people, retainers are part of post-orthodontic treatment. After finally getting that smile you’ve always wanted, your dental provider fabricates a retainer and explains your treatment plan so you know the number of hours you need to wear your retainer each day and for how long.
At this point, you may be wondering if it’s really necessary to wear a retainer. After all, didn't you just finish months and months of orthodontic treatment to straighten and properly realign your teeth? Absolutely yes, but your teeth are anchored in tissue within your bone, and that living tissue can continue to shift.
It plays out like this: During your orthodontic treatment, your teeth and the underlying tissue gently shift through a process known as bone resorption and ossification. Initially, cells called osteoclasts break down old bone which is reabsorbed by your body. Once your teeth shift into their new positions, another type of cell called osteoblasts build new bone through ossification.
Osteoblasts create a secure foundation for your teeth and work in tandem with your jawbone to reinforce the whole process. When you bite and chew it signals the osteoblasts to continue to strengthen your bone.
Not only does the stabilizing process for your newly realigned teeth take time, but also it’s not a stagnant process. Bone tissue is a living thing and as such is in a constant state of renewal, resulting in an inconvenient truth — your teeth can drift back into poor alignment after orthodontic treatment.
Fortunately, following your orthodontist’s instructions and wearing your retainer ensures your teeth won’t shift back.
Although it may at times seem like a chore to remember to wear your retainer as instructed, it’s a small price to pay to preserve your new smile, the one you worked so hard to get. After all, do you really want to risk starting all over again or even altering your results?
Think of your retainer as an insurance plan for your amazing new smile. It’s your ticket to preserving the smile you’ve always wanted for a lifetime.
If you’ve just finished your orthodontic treatment and want to learn more about retainers, contact McGill Orthodontics to schedule a visit. Call our office most convenient to you or request your appointment online today.