Do I Need a Retainer to Keep My Teeth Straight?

You did it! You put in the time, money, and effort it took to get your bite back in balance and your smile straightened out. And if you’re like most people, you want to put that all behind you and move on with no more appliances, no more extra responsibility. 

Unfortunately, your teeth have a way of slipping back into their old crooked positions quickly after your braces are removed, so if you don’t do something to prevent it, you’ll wind up right where you started and undo all your hard work. 

Luckily, retainers provide the perfect foil to your post-alignment woes. Our team of experts here at LM Orthodontists in McLean, Virginia, understands your dilemma. We also know that the last thing you want to do is go back to crooked teeth. That’s why we offer a variety of retainers to ensure your smile stays straight and you get your money’s worth from your alignment treatment. 

Here’s a look at how crooked teeth and misalignment can reoccur, and how retainers can help you stop it.

Teeth on the move

It’s easy to think of your teeth as stationary objects in your mouth. After all, they have no joints, no range of motion, and you can’t remove them. But just because you don’t see major movement doesn’t mean there's none at all.

In fact, your teeth are constantly shifting. Orthodontists call this movement “settling,” and it occurs every time you bite or chew. As your upper and lower teeth make contact with one another, they naturally settle into whatever position the force of the bite dictates. As your jaw closes, your teeth wiggle and shift until they achieve maximum contact. Then, as the pressure releases, they move slightly again. 

Your teeth after braces or aligners

This ability of your teeth to move ever-so-slightly is precisely what made your braces or aligners so effective. Over time, they capitalized on your teeth’s mobility and kept constant pressure on them, coaxing them to migrate to a prescribed location and position. Ironically, shiftability is also the thing that could wreck all your efforts in the months and years after your alignment.

This type of movement is called “relapse,” and it describes the migration of your teeth back into their original — crooked and misaligned — position. Without intervention, your teeth are doomed to revert back to their pre-alignment places.

Retainers to the rescue

Retainers stop relapse and keep your teeth in their new positions until they become firmly stabilized and secure. 

Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s hard to say how long you’ll need to wear your retainer, but we can let you know when we assess your bite and your teeth. Regardless of the treatment length, you can expect to wear your retainer day and night for the first two or three months. 

Depending on your specific needs, we offer a range of retainer types, including:

Except for the fixed style, you can take your retainer out to eat and brush your teeth, so it's not as involved as caring for your teeth with braces on them. 

Your retainer is the only way to keep your teeth straight and prevent the eventual relapse that will undo your new smile. To learn more about the alignment treatments and types of retainers we offer, call us at 703-498-2047 or request a consultation online today.

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