When you get your braces removed, it does not signal the end of your orthodontic treatment but rather the beginning of the retainer stage.
Teeth will move slightly after braces come off unless they are stabilized with a retainer, which is a passive appliance that holds teeth in the properly aligned position.
Wearing a retainer is an important part of the overall orthodontic treatment plan because the genetics that caused the crooked teeth still have some effect, and the tissue has memory so the teeth tend to want to move back toward the original position after the braces are removed.
I recommend patients wear their retainer while their face is still growing through their teens and into their early 20s. Our goal is to have the face adapt to the straight teeth and not have the muscles, tissue or tongue move teeth back to the misaligned position.
There are several types of retainers available, but I prefer removable clear retainers because they are more comfortable to wear than traditional retainers that have a bulky plastic palate and wire. These clear retainers touch every tooth at every point all along the tooth, as opposed to the wire retainers that have less contact between retainer and tooth and can be easily bent and distorted.
Plus clear retainers, to some degree, work like Invisalign, so if there is slight movement in your teeth, they are efficient in re-aligning teeth providing some correction.
The biggest advantage of clear retainers? You only need to wear them for 12 hours, which means putting it in after dinner and wearing while sleeping at night so it never leaves the house. This means you don’t have to worry about kids not wearing it during the day or accidently throwing it in the garbage in the school cafeteria.
Not only are clear retainers the most practical, they are also priced better. If a patient loses or damages a retainer, I can make a new one in a day for around $150 versus $400 that many orthodontists charge for a wire retainer.