Windy City Orthodontics in Chicago congratulates those that have made it this far. You took the brave first step of scheduling a free consultation. Next, you came in for your first visit and began your treatment the same day. Then, Dr. Pakravan reviewed your records and spoke with you about a unique treatment plan. You might have opted for an aesthetic treatment like teeth whitening. Or, you needed Invisalign, clear braces, or metal braces. Each of those options demanded investment from you. You put a significant amount of time and money into improving your smile. But the hard work is still ongoing. Here’s why you need to continue your progress by wearing a retainer.
Braces v. Retainers: What’s The Difference?
Braces and retainers serve two different but equally essential functions. Most simply, braces help reorient your teeth to a straighter position. Once Dr. Pakravan removes your braces, you must take a step to preserve your teeth. Teeth can be stubborn. That’s one of the reasons it might feel like you wear braces for such a long time — teeth like to revert to their original position. You may recall having to come into the office for Dr. Pakravan to tighten your braces. He does that because your teeth slowly become accustomed to a new position. But, they aren’t as straight as Dr. Pakravan would like, hence the tightening.
So What Do Retainers Do?
We mentioned above that braces straighten your teeth over time. Retainers help them stay that way. Remember — teeth are stubborn. Just because you’ve spent many months in braces doesn’t mean your teeth will remain in their new position. Preserving this new position doesn’t happen automatically. A retainer does just what it says; it helps your teeth retain the position your braces treatment moved them to.
How Does a Retainer Work?
When designing your retainer, our Windy City Orthodontics team will begin with the structure of your teeth. Just like your braces, we will engineer your retainer for you specifically. We do not practice any one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, your retainer will fit your teeth and no one else’s. This will ensure that it performs precisely as intended because you don’t want someone else’s smile. No, you want your smile.
Some retainers are removable, and others are not (more on that below). If your retainer is removable, then you will likely need to wear it every night while you sleep. If Dr. Pakravan recommended a non-removable retainer, then adhere to his guidelines. You should expect the best results using the retainer as instructed for the specified time.
What Are My Options for Different Retainers?
The three basic types of retainers are:
- Fixed: Attached to the side of the teeth facing the tongue
- Hawley: Remain in place via wire wrapping around teeth, can be removed
- Essix: Clear, plastic, and removable
Fixed retainers are assembled from a narrow wire. The write stretches across the inside of the bottom or top front teeth. Using glue, it adheres to that exact spot. For this reason, fixed retainers are particularly adept at keeping teeth straight after braces. Fixed retainers tend to produce the best results.
Moreover, they’re impossible to forget because they are always with you. It would be best if you still brushed your teeth as usual. However, you’ll need to make some adjustments to navigate your brush around your retainer. Verify that your brush touches each part of every tooth. Make sure to pay particular attention to the area behind your retainer. Get in there like it’s your job.
Work with Dr. Pakravan regarding how best to floss with a fixed retainer. It is easier to use tools like Waterpiks or floss threaders. It’s essential to get into even the smallest of spaces. Chew softer foods, but eschew hard, crunchy, or sticky foods. Keep regular appointments with our team.
Hawley retainers work via a wire wrapped around the teeth. This wire is attached to an acrylic arch that lies beneath the roof of your mouth. Should Dr. Pakravan fit you with a Hawley retainer, clean it daily. We suggest using a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste. Doing so will get rid of bacteria and plaque. You can leave your retainer in denture cleaner if that doesn’t quite cut it. Keep this retainer out of hot environments. Don’t use hot or boiling water to clean it. Extreme heat will distort and warp the shape of the retainer, so it will no longer fit you correctly.
Manufactured from transparent plastic, Essix retainers remain a favorite among patients and orthodontists. In part, they resemble the trays used with Invisalign clear aligners. When Dr. Pakravanissues you a retainer, it is customized to fit your mouth. With proper oversight, an Essix retainer can last very long.
To maintain the integrity of your Essix retainer, brush and floss it before putting it on. When the time comes to remove it, clean it straight away. Leaving saliva in it to dry gives bacteria free rein. Like the Hawley model, you might opt for a soft-bristled brush for cleaning. Should you desire a more thorough cleansing, use dish soap with lukewarm water. For grooved aligners, a cotton swab will come in handy. If need be, you can place an Essix retainer in denture solution.
Windy City Orthodontics for the Win
Dr. Pakravan and the rest of the Windy City Orthodontics team can answer any questions about why you need to wear a retainer. That said, we’d love to see you in person to help you in any way we can. Visit us here to schedule a free exam.