What are Retainers?

October 25, 2016

retainers LAST UPDATED: OCTOBER 30, 2016 This question won’t be a stretch for you if you’ve been through orthodontic procedures yourself or if you’ve already had a child through the process of braces followed by a retainer once the appliance comes off. But, if this is your first foray into this type of specialized dentistry, you want to know what to expect. As a practice devoted to orthodontics, we’ve been asked just about every question under the sun by parents. So we hope the following compendium of questions and responses answer most of yours.


What’s a retainer?

It’s a dental device constructed of wire or plastic that acts as a post-braces sentry to make sure all of those straightened teeth stay put. Retainers made for the upper teeth can be removed when they’re not required. But some retainers made for bottom teeth are permanently affixed and can’t be taken out. These appliances are worn nightly in most cases, but if an orthodontist believes the patient would benefit from wearing them day and night, that’s not unusual. At King Orthodontics, every patient is unique. So if we advise patients to wear a retainer all the time, there’s a very good reason why.

Why must my child wear a retainer?

First, because the orthodontist prescribes it. Second, because after teeth have undergone an arduous tooth straightening process, the retainer acts as a place keeper to accustom the teeth to their newly straightened positions. Think of it this way: The reason your child needed braces in the first place is because thumb sucking, mouth breathing and other oral habits that slowly but surely pushed teeth out of alignment require long treatment periods. You can’t undo years of causation in a matter of months.

Are there age parameters for wearing retainers?

Once-upon-a-time, orthodontists recommended braces and retainers for kids only after they reached their teens and few adults sought this type of treatment. These days, depending upon the severity of a situation, treatment can begin as early as seven. Though the ideal age for orthodontic treatments remains between 10 and 14. Age limits? Don’t be silly.  A typical course of treatment averages 24 months for braces followed by a similar timeline for wearing a retainer. Treatment can be longer for adults. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYjRo1s1xkg[/embed]  

My child didn’t wear braces; why must she wear a retainer?

Because sometimes, bite problems don’t require a long-term solution like braces. They can be fixed without having to go to that extreme. Certain types of removable appliances are made to close gaps or spaces between teeth--or perhaps only a few of your child’s teeth require correction. Orthodontists have used retainers to help correct speech problems and medical conditions diagnosed by dentists and doctors. Even TMJ sufferers have been helped by wearing retainers.

What can I expect once my child starts wearing a retainer?

That depends upon your child. Is she a drama queen? You might be treated to an award-winning performance because it takes time to get used to wearing a retainer, even if your daughter is a braces veteran. She could experience discomfort as she gets used to wearing the newly fitted appliance. It’s not unusual for teeth or gums to feel sore or your child might experience some pressure. If the discomfort doesn’t disappear after a few days, touch bases with us. We might prescribe aspirin or another OTC pain relief product. On the other hand, if you notice some bleeding, put us on speed dial.

How long must my child wear his retainer?

You may as well ask how long your teen will pout if you say no to the new Xbox that just hit the market! Every retainer-wearer is unique and while some kids wear them for just months. Others could be required to wear them for years. Orthodontists are highly skilled at treating patients and we're good at estimates, but we're not clairvoyant!

My child says she looks like a freak in her retainer.

Heaven forbid. You can banish the thought of your child being wired up like a zombie if she’s a candidate for a new type of invisible retainer. Not every child may be able to wear these, but if yours can be treated with clear aligners, this may be your salvation. Orthodontics like Invisalign brand retainers are regularly prescribed for kids with mild spacing problems and post-braces treatment, but dare we repeat that not every kid is a candidate for these appliances?

Any downside to Invisalign retainers?

Kids and adolescents who still have their baby teeth may not be able to wear these. For patients who must wear a retainer for a very long time--years and years--this may not be a good option because these dental fixtures are made for shorter term wearers--from nine months to two years. The cost of invisible retainers can be slightly higher than standard appliances. King Orthodontics payment plans can help with that, so you won’t have to stop buying premium pet food to keep the family budget in balance.

What happens if my kid stops wearing her retainer?

The retainer police won’t show up at your front door if your child forgets to slide it into her mouth for a day or two. But your child’s jaw and teeth are composed of living tissue and bone, so if she skip wearing the retainer for long periods of time, her mouth could actually start to shift slightly. Parents have been known to go ballistic when they find a retainer languishing in a nightstand. Don’t be one of them. It’s okay to remind your child to put it in and to verify it with a surprise bedtime check.

Isn’t a mouth guard the same as a retainer?

The principle’s there but the therapeutic result doesn’t compare. Retainers continue the job of keeping teeth aligned. Mouth guards keep people from doing things like grinding teeth at night that can seriously impair the health of teeth and gums. There’s a reason your orthodontist must take such painstaking care to take impressions that are exacting and perfect. The retainer has a specific job to do that a mouth guard can’t emulate.

My child is growing impatient—what can I tell him?

You could try a cliché like “Rome wasn’t built in a day” but that might only earn you an eye roll. Acknowledge his frustration. It’s no fun wearing braces or a retainer, especially in today’s world where kids are teased and made fun of for irrational reasons. Keep an open line of communication. Listening to his griping. It helps to keep this thought in mind as you practice the Zen of retainers: “Someday, he is going to be sitting where I am, trying to placate his impatient child over the very same topic.” If that doesn’t help, nothing will.

Make Your Appointment Today

King Orthodontics is trusted source when it comes to the field of orthodontics. Visit our website and discover the services on offer. And learn more about the dedicated professionals that are waiting to help you get the smile you deserve. Set up your first consultation for a thorough evaluation. From that point, you can learn if braces are for you and discuss the types of braces that are available. From colored braces to clear aligners, you have many alternatives that can help you to have a smile you will be proud of. You’ll be full of excitement when it’s time to flash your pearly whites for the camera and any occasion. Thanks to our team at King Orthodontics.

King Orthodontics 400 East Dayton Yellow Springs Rd. Fairborn, OH 45324 Phone: (937) 878-1561 Fax: (937) 433-9530

What are Retainers?

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