Posts for tag: retainers
Orthodontics can produce an amazing smile transformation. With today’s advanced appliances and techniques even the most difficult malocclusions (bad bites) can be overcome. All of this innovation, however, depends on one basic anatomical fact: though firmly set in the mouth, our teeth can still move.
Teeth are actually held in place by the periodontal ligament, a strong, elastic tissue that attaches to them through tiny collagen fibers on one side of the ligament and to the jawbone with similar fibers on the other side. When pressure is placed against a tooth, the bone on the opposite side of the force begins to dissolve (resorb), allowing the tooth to move. As it moves, new bone is built up behind the tooth, to stabilize it. Orthodontists take advantage of this natural mechanism through orthodontic hardware like braces that applies pressure in the desired direction of movement, while the ligament and bone do the rest.
There is, though, a downside to this process. The teeth, bone and gum tissues can contain a kind of “memory” for the former natural position of the teeth. Over time, the lower front teeth tend to take a gradual migratory movement back towards their original position. Also, as we age the lower front teeth may crowd each other as there is a genetic influence for teeth to move to the midline of the face, causing a pressure that allows the skinny lower front teeth to slip behind each other. As a result of both of these tendencies, corrected teeth may retreat from their new positions.
To stop these tendencies, we use an appliance known as a retainer after braces or other hardware is removed. As the name implies, this appliance “retains” the teeth in their new position. For structural “memory,” the retainer will keep the teeth in their new position until the impulse to return to the old one has faded, about eighteen months. Retainers can also slow or stop the natural genetic influence of movement, but it may mean wearing a retainer for an indefinite period, especially individuals who’ve undergone orthodontic treatment later in life.
The length of time you’ll need to wear a retainer after braces — and what type, whether a removable appliance or one permanently attached — will depend on a number of factors including the type of malocclusion, your individual mouth structure and age. We’ll recommend the best option that ensures the best chance of keeping your teeth in their new position.
If you would like more information on retainers after orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Why Orthodontic Retainers?”
Your braces have finally been removed and you’ve unveiled your new smile to the world. You’re finished with orthodontics — right?
Not quite. If you want to “retain” your new smile you’ll need to wear a retainer appliance: depending on your age and which teeth were moved, that could be for several months or even indefinitely.
Retainers are necessary because of how teeth naturally move within the mouth. Although your teeth may seem rigidly set in bone, they’re actually held in place by an elastic tissue called the periodontal ligament. This tissue is quite dynamic in response to biting forces or even normal tooth wear. When forces are applied to a tooth, it’s the ligament that transmits pressure against the teeth to gradually move them to a more accommodating position. In response, the bone resorbs (dissolves) on the side of the tooth moving toward the new position while laying down new growth on the other side. This bone growth will help anchor the tooth in the new position.
Braces use this natural process to gradually move teeth; both the ligament and bone will reform as needed. But this reforming process takes time. Furthermore, there’s a natural balance between the teeth, the tongue and the lips and cheeks. Although the new position created by orthodontics may be more aesthetically pleasing, it may disrupt the natural balance of these surrounding muscles. The influence of habits like clenching or grinding of your teeth may also disturb the new tooth position. The natural tendency is to revert back to the original tooth position.
We use retainers to prevent this reversal. Nearly all orthodontic patients will initially wear them all the time, and for younger patients this may be reduced to wear only during sleep time. Total wear time usually lasts a minimum of eighteen months, until the bone and ligament have fully reformed.
For older patients, though, retainer wear may need to continue indefinitely to prevent “relapse.” In these long-term cases another option to a removable retainer is to permanently bond thin retainer wires to the inside surfaces of the front teeth. The wires can remain in place for several years and are much less noticeable than a removable retainer.
While retainers are often considered inconvenient, they’re absolutely necessary for preserving the results of orthodontic treatment. In the end they’ll help you keep the form and function of your new smile.
If you would like more information on orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Why Orthodontic Retainers?”