What is Retention?
Retention - smiling face PhotoWhen your braces are removed, you begin the retention phase of your treatment. Teeth are slightly mobile after orthodontic treatment and retainers are used to hold them in their new positions while the bone stabilizes around the roots. After active treatment, tooth movement and bite instability will be present for approximately one year. The importance of wearing your retainers cannot be over-emphasized.

The Science of Retention

Retention - business cards PhotoAll teeth are connected to the gum tissue and underlying bone by many microscopic fibers. During and after orthodontic treatment, these fibers stretch or compress to accommodate the new position of the teeth. For approximately one year, these fibers can actually remember their previous structure and shape. If the teeth are left alone, without being held in their new position, these fibers will push or pull the teeth back toward their original positions. After the one year holding period, these fibers will have completely reorganized, or reconstituted themselves to accommodate the new positions of the teeth. Therefore, it is very important for patients to be diligent with their retainer wear during that first year, while the teeth are still susceptible to fiber memory movement.

Patients that follow our recommendations for retainer wear will find that they have few tooth shifting problems in future years. Normally, we recommend full time retainer wear for the first year and then gradually change to night time wear. Unfortunately, our bodies change our entire life, and the teeth, being part of our body want to change as well. The only way to stop the change them is to wear the retainers as needed.

You may have heard that the wisdom teeth, or third molars, are responsible for tooth crowding later in life. That may be partially true, but most studies have shown that extra growth of the lower jaw in the late teenage years is the main culprit. Girls up to the age of 17 and boys up to the age of 21 are susceptible to this late growth change. As the lower jaw grows, the teeth will move in order to adapt to the new jaw position. This is why we encourage our patients to wear their retainers during their late teenage years.

Retention - toothy dogs Photo

“I told you not to eat your retainer”

Types of Retainers

There are many different types of retainers available and all have their advantages and disadvantages. We often use a removable spring retainer in our office. This is a retainer that can accommodate slight movements of the teeth over time, and can be adapted to move the teeth back in to the correct position if there has been minor shifting. Some patients prefer a fixed retainer that is cemented to the backs of the front teeth and is quite reliable. However, it can become a hygiene nightmare if it is not cleaned properly and frequently. At some point, we will want to remove this type of retainer and move into a removable one. You may have also seen the clear or “invisible” retainers. These are great for a temporary retainer, but they do not allow the teeth to bite together naturally due to the presence of plastic on the biting surfaces of the teeth. In fact, these retainers may eventually cause the back teeth to not touch at all, thereby creating not only a new orthodontic problem, but possibly a jaw joint problem. We will help you choose the appropriate retainer for your individual needs.

Retention - 3 Types of retainers Photo

Making a beautiful smile often takes a lot of work and sacrifice. And science shows us the reason for tooth movement after braces. Our job then, is to simply protect what we have accomplished by being good with our retainer wear. We all want your smile to last a lifetime.

Back To Services >>>

Request a Free Consultation >>>