Many people believe orthodontics is made up of having braces, or another type of appliance like Invisalign aligners, fitted to your teeth to help straighten them. Once they're straightened, the braces or aligners can be removed and you're left with straight teeth. This is true... up to a point.
What many people don't realise is that perhaps the most important part of orthodontic treatment happens once your braces or aligners come off. Now that your teeth have been moved into their desired position, you want to keep them there and that is the job of a retainer.
How do retainers work?
Retainers come in two different forms. Removable retainers are usually clear plastic retainers that look very similar to Invisalign aligners. Fixed retainers are made up of a small metal wire that is fixed to the back of your top and bottom teeth and is not visible to other people.
Your orthodontist will advise you on when to wear your retainer to get the best results, but ideally you should wear your retainer for as long as you want your teeth to remain straight. Initially, your retainer should be worn both day and night for 3 months, then just at night.
Taking care of your retainer
To ensure your retainer is most effective, you need to keep it in good condition. Removable retainers can be removed for eating so food shouldn't get stuck in it. However, it does need to be kept clean. You should also keep it in its case when you are not wearing it to avoid it getting damaged – or lost!