By Dr. John White
Braces by White

Patients are always beaming with joy the day they get their braces off, but I have to temper their excitement by reminding them that straightening teeth is only half the battle; the other is keeping them straight. That’s why retainers are essential to the overall treatment plan.

While every patient is different and no one retainer is ideal for everyone, my preference is to use a clear Invisalign type removable retainer on top and a fixed, bonded retainer on the backside of the bottom front teeth.

When you have a removable retainer on the upper arch and a bonded lower anterior retainer, it allows your back teeth to settle and finish the best bite. And using a fixed lower retainer keeps your front lower teeth straight, as we stabilize the upper teeth with a clear retainer. We have found that bonded upper retainers often interfere with the patient’s bite.

The biggest advantage of a fixed retainer is it keeps your teeth from shifting after your braces come off. This is especially important if there were teeth that had a lot of rotation corrected, as those need more rigidity and require bonded retainers. Another benefit is the patient doesn’t need to remember to put the retainer in every night because it is in the mouth 24/7.

How long do patients need to wear retainers? I tell my patients that teeth have a tendency to shift throughout a person’s lifetime. The longer they help to keep their teeth in place after braces are removed, the more likely they are to stay in place longer when they finally let go.