You spent years wearing your braces and can finally breathe a sigh of relief that they’re gone. You’re ready to enjoy your new smile without interference from metal brackets, but then your orthodontist introduces your retainer. You realize that you’re not completely free of teeth straightening devices just yet.
If you don’t want to wear your retainer, we have some information that you should consider before you toss it aside. What will happen if you don’t wear your retainer, and can you maintain your straight teeth without it? Keep reading for the answers.
Why Do You Have to Wear a Retainer After Braces?
Braces can straighten crooked teeth by applying gentle pressure consistently over a long period of time. Once the braces are removed, your teeth need time to settle into their new placement. If you completely remove the pressure that was applied while wearing braces, your teeth are likely to return to their previous position, undoing your hard work.
Retainers are designed to provide continuous pressure on your teeth much like braces. The difference is that they’re smaller and less intrusive. They’re also less noticeable when you smile. Most people are fitted with removable braces, which means you can take them out for short periods of time. Fixed retainers are available for some patients.
Your retainer will continue to apply some pressure on your teeth for a couple of months, potentially longer. Your orthodontist will determine when you can safely stop wearing the retainer without risking a return to the original position of your teeth.
What Causes Teeth to Shift?
Teeth naturally shift positions as you get older. Genetics can play a part in significant shifting. If you don’t take care of your teeth properly, they’re more likely to shift and may develop gum disease that makes the problem even worse.
When you first get your braces removed, your teeth simply haven’t firmly settled into their corrected placement. You just need some time before you stop applying that gentle, consistent pressure that holds them in place.
Can You Keep Your Teeth Straight without the Retainer?
Wearing your retainer for at least a couple of months after removing braces is critical. If you find your retainer unbearably uncomfortable or have other issues, discuss the problem with your orthodontist. It’s possible that you need the retainer adjusted for a more comfortable fit. Orthodontists are also trained to relieve as much discomfort as possible for patients.
Other than wearing your retainer until your orthodontist says it’s safe to stop, there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk of shifting teeth:
- Take great daily care of your teeth. Make sure you’re brushing and flossing as directed by your orthodontist or dentist. When your teeth are cared for properly, they’re less likely to shift due to decay or gum disease.
- See your dentist for routine dental cleanings and examinations. Your dentists can catch early signs of shifting teeth that you may not notice at home. Fast action will get your teeth back into their corrected position.
- Ask your dentist about wearing a mouthguard when you sleep if grinding or clenching your teeth is a problem. Those motions can lead to tooth shifting over time.
You should also pay attention to any motion that may apply gradual pressure on your mouth. For instance, sleeping on your stomach with your face down in the pillow can create pressure on your teeth nightly. Resting your chin on your hand can do the same.