Dental retainers are orthodontic devices that help to keep your teeth straight. Corrective devices such as braces and retainers are used by an orthodontist to improve your bite or straighten misaligned teeth.
How Teeth Are Straightened
If you have crooked teeth, you can have them straightened by opting for orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist uses braces to apply constant pressure to your teeth to move them within the surrounding bone in the desired direction. The pressure applied by the braces remodels the bones and allows the teeth to move. This treatment can take 2 to 3 years. Once the teeth are straightened, the bite is corrected and the growth of the jaws is manipulated, the braces are removed from the mouth.
The Retentive Phase
Only after the teeth are straightened and the malocclusion is corrected are the braces removed from the mouth. But, this doesn’t mean that the orthodontic treatment is completed. The retentive phase begins at this point. This phase is as important as the corrective phase, when braces were the principal devices of the treatment. In the retentive phase, dental retainers are the principal devices of the treatment.
Understanding Dental Retainers
Dental retainers can be either removable or fixed and are generally made of wire and plastic or acrylic. These dental retainers hold the teeth in position while the gums get adjusted to the changes in the bone structure caused by the corrective orthodontic treatment. They help to maintain the position of the teeth even after the braces are removed. This is because both the gums and bones need time to stabilize around the new positions of the teeth.
If you don’t wear retainers, all the corrections that were achieved during the corrective phase will be lost as the gums and bones allow the teeth to go back to their original positions.
The Importance of Dental Retainers
Teeth are held in place by elastic fibers known as periodontal ligaments that exist around the teeth. During orthodontic treatment, these elastic fibers are stretched and the teeth move to a new desired position. Once the braces are removed, the elastic fibers will tend to relax and this can cause the teeth to revert to their original position. This is known as a relapse and the use of dental retainers is very essential to prevent such a relapse.
These dental retainers apply resistance to the teeth and counteract the pressure from the elastic fibers around the teeth. They therefore keep the teeth in position and give the gums and bones the required time to stabilize around the new positions of the teeth. They also bond the teeth permanently into their new position.
Dental retainers are useful in not only keeping the teeth in position, but also in preventing the teeth from shifting due to the continued growth of the mouth. They allow the muscles in the mouth, jaw and cheeks to adapt to the remodeled jaws. Retainers need to be worn for many years and sometimes throughout your life to help you retain the corrective benefits of your orthodontic treatment.