In orthodontics, retainers are equally as important as the braces themselves.
The periodontal ligament allows teeth to move and flex as you bite and chew. Braces put this ligament under constant pressure to allow time for new bone cells to form around the teeth while they’re in the corrected position.
During the period where the periodontal ligament is still soft, your dentist will fit a retainer to help prevent the ligament from pulling the teeth back into their previous position, reversing the work done by the braces.
The period when this is most likely to occur is within the first three months after the dentist removes your braces. The risk gradually reduces over time, although there is always the possibility that it could happen in the future.
While the most common type of retainer is removable, you may wish to consider dental bonded retainers as an alternative. Given the importance of your retainer, it is worth considering all factors before making your choice.
Bonded retainers are comprised of a piece of wire permanently attached to the back of the teeth using a composite material. The process takes only a few minutes. Bonded retainers are very discreet, so they’re great for self-conscious patients.
They’re also often recommended for children to help with compliance, as only a dentist can remove a bonded retainer. Some adults prefer them too because they’re easy to forget about once they’re in place.
The material used to affix the retainer lasts for several years, so aside from cleaning and regular check-ups, further maintenance shouldn’t be necessary for some time.
However, the inability to remove dental bonded retainers can cause issues. They can make essential dental hygiene practices like brushing and especially flossing more difficult, and you may need special cleaning tools.
In addition to the extra cleaning you’ll be doing at home, you’ll also need to have regular cleanings at your dental office to avoid a potential build-up of tartar caused by an inadequately cleaned retainer.
There is a possibility that a bonded retainer can break, requiring another trip to the orthodontist. Sometimes, the patient doesn’t even realize their retainer is compromised until their teeth begin to shift back into their old position.
For this very reason, individuals wearing bonded retainers should try to avoid gummy, sticky, or hard foods. Bonded retainers also only attach to the front teeth, so they’re unable to prevent the rear molars from relapsing into a misaligned position.
Oral hygiene is essential when wearing a bonded retainer. A failure to keep your retainer clean can lead to tooth decay or loss. Orthodontists are unlikely to fit a bonded retainer if they don’t consider the patient to have sufficient oral hygiene.
Bonded retainers should cause minimal issues. Your orthodontist will talk you through the options and make a recommendation based on your individual case history.