So your time with braces is about to come to an end, and you’re wondering what happens next?
Retainers play an important role in ensuring that teeth stay in proper alignment following years of specialized orthodontic treatment. While this may come as a surprise, it’s possible for a patient’s teeth to move out of perfect alignment over the time without the help of a retainer.
Here at Blue Ridge Orthodontics, we take a mold of each patient’s new smile and use that to create a customized retainer– not unlike Invisalign. The amount of time you should wear your retainer will vary, but these are details that you’ll receive during your final appointments.
Types of Retainers
There are actually two types of retainers that we provide for our patients here in Asheville: removable and fixed retainers. BRO’s doctors will advise you about which is best for your specific situation and clinical needs.
What did you picture in your mind when you read “fixed retainer?” Some people can get the wrong impression when first hearing about this orthodontic appliance.
The reality is that a fixed retainer is a thin wire that is attached to the back of the lower or upper front teeth. Our orthodontists use a bonding glue that is similar to what we use to attach braces brackets. A fixed retainer tends to produce the best results over the long run, since the wire will hold teeth in perfect formation all day, every day.
When it comes to removable retainers, Blue Ridge Orthodontics offers two varieties here in Asheville. Our preferred option is a clear retainer that resembles an aligner tray from Invisalign or our Impressions treatment system. The other retainer type is the classic combination of wire, acrylic material and clasps.
This type of retainer makes it easier for the patient to clean their teeth, but it does come with extra responsibilities. Our doctors likely will recommend wearing your retainer every night.
Unfortunately, these retainers can be easy to lose and components can sustain permanent damage if exposed to extreme heat. They aren’t inexpensive to replace, so we tell all our patients to establish a specific place to store their removable retainer in order to keep it safe. The retainer case we provide can help!
How to Wear, Store and Care for Your Retainer
Now that you know how important your retainer is, there are a few instructions we need to pass along:
When inserting your retainer, don’t bite down. Use your fingers to gently push the retainer into position. Also, try to avoid manipulating it with your tongue as this can actually start to warp the retainer over time.
Immediately following your treatment, you’ll be expected to wear your retainer every night.
You’ll want to remove your retainer before eating, and you should brush both teeth and retainer before reinserting. Just please avoid using hot water when cleaning, as this can warp your retainer.
When you aren’t wearing your retainer, be sure to place it in its case. You’d be surprised how easy it can be to misplace a retainer. Keeping it in its case can protect it from damage and loss.
For the warmer months here in Asheville, please don’t leave your retainer lying around in direct sunlight or in a hot place (like your car). That invisible retainer could start to melt…
If you have a pet, then be careful where your store your retainer, as it could become a rather expensive chew toy.
Aside from retainers, Blue Ridge Orthodontics offers a wide range of other orthodontic appliances that help alter the way the mouth works. These can be especially beneficial in cases where our orthodontists need to correct specific bone problems for patients. These appliances are employed in combination with braces or another form of treatment when needed.
Elastics – the Rubber Bands
These little elastic rubber bands are used to move the teeth so that they fit together properly from top to bottom. During an appointment, you’ll be shown the desired configuration so that you can take them out when needed. The rubber band is attached to the bracket via their built-in “hook.”
Remember that the brackets of your braces merely serve as a tool for grabbing onto your teeth. The bulk of the movement we’ll accomplish during your course of treatment is achieved through wires and rubber bands.
Like other appliances, you can remove your rubber bands. This is necessary in order to eat and brush your teeth effectively. However, if you don’t follow your orthodontist’s directions precisely, the course of your treatment could take a lot longer to complete.
Here at BRO, we offer rubber bands in clear and a variety of colors!
While they may look a little intense, Forsus springs function much like elastic rubber bands to help align the upper and lower teeth. This orthodontic appliance is primarily employed when patients fail to follow the instructions for their rubber bands. Our orthodontists at BRO won’t often recommend Forsus springs first, since we typically attempt other methods of bite correction first.
The Forsus springs will be placed by your orthodontist and anchored to the upper molars via tubes and lower brackets via archwire. Since they can’t be removed by the patient, this appliance proves to be very effective.
While not as common as it once was, orthodontic headgear can still play an important role when treating patients. This type of appliance is used to help guide the growth of the jaws and the face. When needed, headgear can help create space for teeth and move them into the proper positions. On the other hand, this appliance also can be used to prevent unwanted movement.
Like other forms of treatment, we have patients that report some extra tenderness for the first week or so after getting fitted with their headgear. This sensation will go away as you adjust to the appliance. Your headgear also will come with certain instructions that need to be followed closely, otherwise the treatment can take longer to complete.
For patients with a significant overbite, the MARA appliance can be extremely effective. Our orthodontists use it to expedite the forward growth of the lower jaw. At the same time, the MARA appliance also slows the forward growth of the upper jaw. The upper jaw can be expanded with this appliance if necessary, too.
Patients will generally have the MARA appliance in place for a full year. It usually is used in combination with braces – this will depend on the patient’s age and the problem that needs to be addressed.
For the patients that need their upper (maxillary) arch expanded, there is no orthodontic appliance more effective than the palatal expander. This device will widen (or “expand”) your upper jaw through gradual pressure it applies on the upper molars. The palatal expander uses a small screw that can be adjusted to achieve the desired expansion. Further instructions will be provided by your orthodontist.
One should note that the goal of this appliance is to move the bones (not just teeth) of the upper jaw apart. This means that we tend to use this appliance with younger patients as the length of treatment will be shorter and results more stable. In any case, the appliance will be kept in place for several months after desired expansion is reached in order to prevent future regression.
A separator is a small rubber or metal ring that gets placed between the teeth in order to separate them. This appliance is employed when there isn’t enough space to place a orthodontic band between a patient’s molars.
The separators are put in place for about a week, and they can cause some mild discomfort as the teeth are pushed apart. We’ve had patients describe the sensation as something akin to having a piece of food stuck between their teeth.
You’ll want to avoid eating chewy or sticky foods as these can dislodge the separator, which can cause delays with your treatment process. If you notice that one of your separators has fallen out, please call us immediately so we can get it replaced.
Make an appointment for a free new patient exam today!
We’ll help you take the first step toward a new smile.