Finally, the big day is here! The day you’ve been waiting for. Today is the day you get your braces off! Immediately, you start daydreaming of all the popcorn you’ll eat, all the gum you’ll chew, and all the perfect-smile selfies you’re going to take. But then, as you stare in awe at your beautiful, bracket-free smile in the hand-held mirror, you hear your doctor say a word that snaps you back into reality—retainer.
A retainer? What do you mean I have to wear a retainer?! I thought this was over?! This scenario is almost a daily occurrence at orthodontist offices all over. And while the news of having to wear a retainer may seem like a big wet blanket thrown over a celebratory day, it’s actually a good thing.
Why do I need a retainer?
Though it may not seem like it at the time, the need for a retainer means your smile is almost ready. We say almost, because even though you’ve reached the stage in which your doctor is ready to remove your braces, your teeth haven’t stopped moving just quite yet. And just as the remodeling of your smile took time to get started, the slowing down of your teeth’s movement takes time too. You see, the constant pressure caused by braces allows your teeth and jaw to be shifted toward their proper alignment. This shift, as you well know by now, didn’t happen overnight. But in order for your new smile to stay in place for good, a retainer is necessary to continue that pressure until your teeth finally stop moving.
Of course, there’s two sides to this coin. If someone were to have their braces taken off and then decide to not wear a retainer, there’s nothing to prevent your teeth from moving in a wrong direction—potentially ruining your new smile. Which leads us to the next point…
Wear your retainer. Seriously!
As you know, there was some daily care necessary while wearing braces. But for the most part, all you had to do was show up to your appointments. However, now that your braces are off, the rest of the journey toward your new smile is pretty much all up to you!
There just simply isn’t enough room on this blog to describe the importance of wearing your retainer. It is a must!
But… what if I forget?
With more than two decades of experience, we completely understand that people can be forgetful. But here’s the thing. If your goal is to have the best smile possible, consistently wearing your retainer is an absolute must. The good news is, there are a slew of things you can do to help you remember.
- Get some help: Having trouble remembering to put on your retainer? Why not ask a friend or family member? Chances are, they’d be more than happy to send some friendly retainer-reminders your way. Just be sure to ask nicely!
- Smile notes: There’s a reason why stickie-notes are so popular. Those brightly colored squares of paper serve as excellent reminders that you can stick just about anywhere. Pro tip: The bathroom mirror is a great place for retainer reminders. And as an added bonus, write a friendly message to yourself that you know your future-self will appreciate. (May we suggest, “Smile More”?)
- Tech for your teeth: With technology constantly at our fingertips, there’s plenty of things our amazing devices can do to help you remember. From simple things like the standard alarm clock on your phone (or your bedside table if you’re old school like that), to even a few apps that are specifically designed for this purpose, there’s a lot of different ways you can use tech in your journey toward straight teeth.
- Out of sight, out of mouth: Of all the ways to help you remember to wear your retainer, we’ve seen the most success from our patients with this one, and it’s actually the simplest one—keep your case in plain sight. Our mind is a powerful thing, but even it needs to be reminded every once in a while. If you’ve stuffed your retainer in a drawer or medicine cabinet where it can get buried all too easily, your mind won’t have that constant reminder. Which is why it’s extremely important not only to keep your retainer in your case when it’s not time to wear it, but to also keep the case in plain sight. Pro tip: Find a place where you know it’ll always be visible, then get into the habit of always keeping it in the same place. Not only will you always know where it is, that visual cue will help your brain remember that you need to wear it.
But wait, do I have to wear this thing all the time?
Yes and no. During the first 6 months after getting your braces off, it’s extremely critical that you wear your retainer day and night (this length of time may differ from patient to patient). For some, the doctor may recommend a permanent retainer. If that’s the case, then you won’t have to worry about remembering to wear it. However, if the doctor decides that a removable retainer is best, then you’ll only need to wear it at night after those first few months. And yes, that means your whole life (but only if you want those teeth to stay straight!)
Caring for your retainer.
Just like your teeth, your retainer requires some TLC too. But don’t worry, this is the easiest part of post-braces life. If you’ve got a permanent retainer, all you’ll have to do to maintain it is regular brushing and flossing (something you’d hopefully be doing anyway).
For removable retainers, the process is as easy as washing your hands (something you’d hopefully be doing anyway too). All that’s required is to give your retainer a quick brushing after meals and before you say goodnight.
The final point.
Yes, we understand that wearing a retainer is not the most fun thing in the world to do. But here’s the thing, and it’s quite simple: if you want the best smile possible, then please, pretty please, pretty please with all the bubble gum you can now chew on top, wear your retainer!!
At Birmingham Orthodontics, our mission is simple: we create smiles. Not only do we straighten the crooked grin, fix the bite, and adjust the jaw, we brighten yearbooks, and instill confidence. We also believe in our staff. Our culture of continuous learning drives us to host monthly training sessions for each team and bring in leading industry consultants to help keep us ahead of the curve. Contact us for a free consultation, or with any questions you might have.