Ortho 101

Post orthodontic treatment

After active treatment is complete, your orthodontist will likely prescribe retainers. Wearing retainers as prescribed is the key to maintaining the success of orthodontic treatment. The responsibility for keeping teeth where you and your orthodontist moved them rests with you. This “retention” phase of care is critical to the long-term stability of treatment results.


Why are retainers prescribed?

Retainers are prescribed for two reasons: first, to allow the bone that holds teeth to rebuild after teeth have moved, and second, to maintain the healthy new positions of teeth after active orthodontic treatment ends. Your body changes your whole life, and your teeth change too. The only way to keep your teeth in the ideal position created by your orthodontic treatment is to wear retainers for life!

How long will retainers need to be worn?

Talk to your orthodontist about how long you will wear retainer Many patients wear retainers nightly for life. Retainers cannot be worn too long or too much. Wearing retainers becomes part of your oral hygiene routine: brush and floss before bed, and wear retainers at night for a lifetime.

How long do retainers last?

With proper care, retainers can last many years. However, remember that retainers are similar to any other device and likely will need to be replaced at some point. Proper care of retainers will extend the lifetime of the retainer. “Proper care” consists of:

  • Storing removable retainers in their cases when the retainers are not in the mouth.
  • Keeping retainers away from heat sources, including the inside of hot cars.
  • Keeping retainers away from pets.
  • Don’t put your retainers in your pocket without the case.

If your retainer appears to have lost its shape, or if it no longer fits when you attempt to place it on your teeth, inform your orthodontist.

How much do replacement retainers cost?

The fee for replacement retainers is determined by your orthodontist.

Are there different kinds of retainers?

Yes, there are two general kinds of retainers: removable (put in and removed by the patient) and fixed (placed and removed by the orthodontist). Your orthodontist will recommend the type of retainer he/she believes is best suited to your needs. There are two kinds of removable retainers: wire and clear. Wire retainers are made of wire and a plastic-like material. The part of the retainer that covers the roof of the mouth or goes behind the lower front teeth can be pink, like the inside of the mouth, or in some cases, wire retainers can be customized with fun designs, graphics, logos or different colors for a personal fashion statement. Clear retainers are transparent trays made of a plastic-like material that are exact replicas of the teeth. The orthodontist will teach you how to insert, remove and take care of a removable retainer. A fixed retainer consists of a thin, custom-fitted wire that is bonded to the tongue-side of upper or lower teeth. If the wire becomes loose on a tooth, it is important to notify your orthodontist immediately.

How are retainers cleaned?

Your orthodontist will explain how removable retainers should be cleaned, based on the materials used to make them. If you have a fixed retainer, it is important to brush thoroughly after meals and clean under the wire with dental floss at least once a day. If brushing is not possible after eating, you should at least rinse with water.

Will I continue to see the orthodontist post-treatment?

Your orthodontist may schedule periodic retainer checks after you receive your retainers. If you have removable retainers, be sure to bring them to the appointment.

What if happens if the retainer is broken or stolen?

If you lose or break a removable retainer, contact your orthodontist immediately about a replacement.

What happens if the retainer doesn’t fit?

If a removable retainer is not fitting properly (which may happen if retainers are not worn as prescribed by the orthodontist) or if a fixed retainer comes loose, call your orthodontist for an appointment.

Will I need to visit the dentist?

Continue visiting your dentist for check-ups and cleanings at least every six months, or more often, if recommended.

Some important advice about retainers.

Retainers work only when they are in the mouth. Removable retainers should be one of two places: in your mouth, or in the case your orthodontist gave you. Removable retainers should not be placed on cafeteria trays. They can be thrown away quite easily. Removable retainers should not be wrapped in napkins or placed in pockets or purses. Napkins get tossed into the trash, retainers fall out of or get broken in pockets or purses. Keep retainers out of the reach of pets. Dogs in particular are attracted to retainers.

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