Maintain your straight smile after your braces are removed

Congratulations! You’ve finally got your braces off and are enjoying your straight teeth and beautiful smile.

But here’s the unfortunate truth: You aren’t quite free of dental appliances just yet. Retainers are necessary to help keep your teeth from moving and ruining the thousands of dollars of orthodontic work you just invested in.

Over 70 percent of people who only wore a retainer for one or two years post-braces needed dental work again 10 years later.

According to the British Orthodontic Society, over 70 percent of people who only wore a retainer for one or two years post-braces needed dental work again 10 years later. In other words, their teeth moved back to where they were before braces.

“In the past, we used to think that once patients reached a certain age, their teeth would eventually be stable,” British orthodontist Simon Littlewood told the U.K. Daily Mail. “Now we know that’s not true, there is potential for teeth to keep moving throughout life — it’s almost like a normal aging phenomenon.”

That’s not welcome news, but you can keep that from happening to you. Just follow these guidelines for your retainers and keep your straight smile for years to come.

Wear Your Retainer

This should go without saying, but you have to wear your retainer as instructed by your orthodontist.

There are two types of retainers: Fixed and removable. Fixed retainers are just like they sound: They’re put in place by your orthodontist and are designed to stay there permanently — or at least until your orthodontist says they can be removed.

Removable retainers can be put in and taken out whenever you want. They can be made of metal, but a clear plastic retainer is currently the most popular type. They’re formed with heat over a mold of your teeth are are designed to fit snugly and hold your teeth in position.

Your orthodontist will likely instruct you to wear your retainer 24 hours a day, seven days a week for several months after your braces are removed. After that, you’ll wear your retainers at night for the rest of your life.

Treat Your Retainer Like You Treat Your Teeth

Brush the insides of your retainer after a meal with plain water, not toothpaste. Toothpaste can be abrasive against the plastic and ruin your retainer prematurely, meaning you’ll have to shell out money for a new one.

Keep Your Retainer in a Cool Place

Keeping your retainer in a warm or hot environment — like in your car on a hot summer day or on a window sill — can cause it to warp and not fit your teeth properly. Don’t try to clean it with boiling or hot water, either.

Ideally, you should keep your retainer in the case that comes with it when you’re not wearing it.

Brush Your Teeth Before You Put It On

Wearing a retainer is not a reason to neglect dental health. Make a habit of brushing your teeth every time you put it on — and keep to your regular twice-a-day brushing schedule, too.

Be Careful Not to Break It

It might be fun to play with your retainer by using your tongue to move it on and off your teeth, but try to avoid it. Excessive playing with your retainer can cause it to rip, meaning you’ll need to get another one.

On that same note: Be sure to keep it away from any pets known to chew on things. The plastic can seem irresistible to pets, especially puppies.

Give Your Retainer an Extra Cleaning Every So Often

Store-bought solutions (like Retainer Bite) can give your retainer an extra deep cleaning now and then. Simply put one of the effervescent tablets in a glass of water and soak it for the amount of time listed on the directions. Denture cleaner also works to clean your retainer.

Bring It with You to Orthodontist Appointments — and Replace It When Necessary

Always bring your retainer with you when visiting your orthodontist so she can make sure it’s fitting correctly and keeping your teeth in the proper place.

And yes, you’ll likely have to wear your retainer for the rest of your life, but your retainer will have to be replaced at certain intervals. Most will last for 10 years, but your orthodontist will give you a schedule of when you should invest in a new one.

The Bottom Line

Wearing a retainer might not be a blast, but it’s necessary to keep your smile looking the way you want it to for the rest of your life. You’ve already made it through braces, so wearing a retainer should be a breeze in comparison!

Posted In: Orthodontics & Aligners