Your braces may be history but retainers are forever. If you weren’t aware of this fact, sorry but it is true. If you have had orthodontic treatment you should wear a retainer not just after your braces are removed but for the rest of your life. How long do these retainers last? Well, it depends on what type you decide to go with.
Indeed, the most important time to wear a retainer is immediately after orthodontic treatment is completed. But even when your braces are a distant memory, your teeth can still shift. A retainer is important to make sure your orthodontic work keeps your teeth in place. In other words, retainers “retain” the position.
So when you first begin wearing a retainer, you should wear it pretty much consistently over six months, and then you can gradually decrease usage. Once your teeth have settled into place, wearing a retainer while you sleep 3 to 5 times a week should be enough. But like toothbrushes, a retainer will not last forever. How often do you need to replace them?
A bonded retainer is a type of permanent retainer, in that it is essentially a wire that is bonded to the back of your teeth. The glue that bonds the wire can wear out with the everyday activity your mouth experiences - eating, talking, brushing and flossing. A bonded retainer on your upper teeth may last up to three years, while a lower bonded retainer will last longer, as this part of the mouth does not see as much activity.
Even if it has been a short time since the retainers were fixed, the wire can become loose without you realising it. Ask your dentist during your regular dental checkups if anything is amiss.
One problem with bonded retainers is that you can have a harder time cleaning your teeth. You may also grow tired of wires being permanently in your mouth, and may want these removed. We would advise that you keep these wires in to prevent any movement in your teeth and not to waste the hard work you went through having braces.
There are two main types of removable retainers, Hawley and Essix. Hawley retainers have an acrylic part that fits snugly to the roof of your mouth or behind your teeth, and from this base, wires protrude and wrap around the front of your teeth. Meanwhile, Essix retainers are single pieces of clear molded plastic that fit directly over your teeth.
Both types of retainers can wear out and get grimey. The Hawley wires may break off at the points of attachment to the tray. For Essix hot water can distort the shape, and through the wear and tear they may end up breaking.