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Your Retainer's Role in Teeth Straightening

By HERWriter
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the role of your retainer in straightening your teeth Piotr Marcinski/PhotoSpin

A retainer can be the bane of a kid's existence. But in the long run, it's worth the trouble and self-consciousness it causes.

Adults can also use retainers but the exquisite embarrassment seems to belong solely to the adolescent crowd.

For most of these teens and pre-teens, the retainer is just the first half of the double whammy of teeth straightening, after having lived with braces. Occasionally, braces aren't necessary to do the job but usually, it's a combined effort.

Braces and retainers are used to correct an underbite or overbite, or to straighten crooked teeth. Once the braces come off, the retainer moves in to keep teeth from shifting position.

A retainer is custom-made by an orthodontist, who specializes in straightening teeth and jaw problems.

To fit you for your retainer, your orthodontist will make an impression of the inside of your mouth with a thick liquid called alginate. Within a week, you should have your finished retainer. It will be a perfect fit for you.

It's still going to take getting used to, though. You will be very aware of it in your mouth at first.

You will have to re-learn how to make the sound "sss", for instance, and you'll have to enunciate your words differently now. Give it a little time though and you will become used to things.

Clean your retainer daily since it is exposed all the time to plaque, food particles and bacteria. Your orthodontist will tell you how to clean it properly.

Soak it in water when you don't have it in. This will keep it from becoming too dry and cracking.

Keep it away from heat so it doesn't warp. And don't bend the wires, they are in the right position for your teeth.

Upper retainers are made of hard plastic or rubber. A wire extends across the outer tooth surface.

Most retainers are removable. However, they probably need to be worn all day every day for the first six months. After that, you may only need to wear them at night while you're sleeping.

Keep wearing your retainer, so you don't have to go back to braces again. Your teeth could shift out of position without it as it will take some time before your gums, bones and muscles get fully adjusted.

Add a Comment3 Comments

Thanks for sharing this information. A dental office once made a retainer for me and I didn't wear it for years. After trying to put it back in my mouth, it clearly didn't fit and broke into pieces. I highly recommend wearing it consistently. Thanks again!

December 5, 2012 - 1:48pm

Thanks for writing. Retainers are often overlooked by patients. They prevent relapse especially in the critical months following full banding being removed. I am happy to see this get some attention as its one of those things that is often overlooked but many patients feel the effects years later.

October 26, 2012 - 9:52am

Yes!! This is a terrific presentation about why retainers are so important, how to get used to them and when to wear them. People don't emphasize the importance of the retainer enough; really, wear it at night forever - it's a no-brainer. I had to go back for adult braces because when I had teen braces in the 70s, retainer wear was not as well understood so I only wore it for a year. A gap eventually opened up between my front teeth, so I had braces again at age 52. My treatment worked wonderfully, but now I wear the retainer every night - it's just not a problem. Thanks for all these tips.

October 26, 2012 - 8:19am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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