Can retainers fix a slight shift of teeth after braces?

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It’s the moment of the big reveal. After all the time and expense, the braces are finally coming off. All parties involved including mom, the orthodontist and the fortunate subject of teeth straightening are anxious to see this ideal smile without the hardware, and what a beautiful smile it is! So, what is with this retainer, and why does it have to be worn every day after all this time spent in wires and brackets?


Why Do I Have to Use a Retainer?

In the same way that teeth are able to be “straightened” or moved through the use of wires and brackets, movement may continue once they are removed. There are a few reasons why teeth will move or shift such as:

Age – braces do not alter a person’s genetic instructions, which simply means if you are still growing, there will be more tooth movement.
Oral Habits – such as nail biting, thumb sucking, clenching of teeth or teeth grinding exert pressure that can possibly move teeth.
Normal Wear – causing movement as teeth come together or adjust to the bite.

It does seem confusing, doesn’t it? After all, teeth are solid, and they are very hard. They are part of the jaw bone, are they not? The idea that they move around seems impossible. That is why it is important to understand how movement of the teeth occurs in the mouth.

How Can Teeth Shift?

While the jaw is made of bone and teeth have such hard enamel, in reality, there is a system of muscle and bone as well as the gums all of which adjust to the re-positioning of teeth. Straightening the teeth with braces relies on gradual movement. The fact that the movement occurs over time is what makes it seem imperceptible.

Teeth naturally shift as bone continues to grow. Orthodontists provide retainers as a vital part of oral treatment once brackets come off. Failure to comply with doctor’s orders as to when and how to wear a retainer could result in the teeth returning to their original positions. This would be an unfortunate waste of expense and belittle the endurance demonstrated by the person who had to wear the wires and brackets.

What Exactly Does the Retainer Do?

Orthodontists evaluate the alignment of the teeth with either an X-ray or by taking a bite impression after brackets are removed. Teeth naturally shift as we grow into adulthood and as we age. The retainer is an orthodontic device individually fashioned to fit the bite. Whether fixed or removable, wearing a retainer is a safeguard used for maintaining the alignment of corrected teeth.

There are three types of retainers:

A fixed retainer is permanently bonded across the back teeth. They are not visually detectable by others and can be worn indefinitely. One disadvantage is how they make flossing a bit difficult. These can only be removed by the orthodontist.
Hawley retainers are the most commonly used removable devices made with a metal wire that runs across the front teeth and fits over the back teeth. The wire is also attached to a fitted acrylic piece that is shaped to fit the roof of the mouth. They are adjustable, durable and easy to clean. They are visibly noticeable, however, and tend to affect the speech initially.
Clear plastic retainers are vacuum-formed trays modeled for a custom fit and have a near invisible appearance. The Invisalign brand of retainers are custom made using state-of-the-art technology. They are made using an impression or 3-D digital scan of the teeth producing a precise, comfortable fit. Another advantage is their durability. They use a proprietary material that is 30 percent stronger than other plastic trays, which reduces the susceptibility of cracking or breaking.

Invisalign aligners are also used to straighten teeth but without the wires and brackets. They are removable making it easier to eat and maintain proper oral hygiene without the interference of the typical hardware. They are also smoother and more comfortable to wear than conventional teeth straightening devices that rub or press against the inside of the mouth.

Contact McDermott Orthodontics to Learn More About Treatment for Adults

In Minnesota, you can visit McDermott Orthodontics to learn more about the orthodontic treatments that are designed for adults. Dr. Michael McDermott offers services to patients living in these areas:

• Delano – 763-972-4444
• Pequot Lake – 218-568-5600
• Brainerd – 218-829-1630
• Baxter – 218-829-1630

At McDermott Orthodontics, our patients can receive treatment with these orthodontic devices:

• Damon system – self-ligating devices
• Clear devices – made with clear brackets
• Invisalign aligners – suitable for adults
• Ceramic devices – made with color-matching brackets

With our top-of-the-line diagnostic equipment, we can determine how to improve the positions of your teeth with a few months or several years of orthodontic treatment. To learn more about orthodontic braces, schedule an appointment today.

Can retainers fix a slight shift of teeth after braces?

McDermott Orthodontist
708 Elm Ave. E.
Delano, MN
TEL: 763-972-4444