Braces create a beautiful smile, but the retainer maintains it while encouraging better oral hygiene long after its use goes away. Although retainers for teeth are most commonly used to hold straight teeth in place after braces, the advantages for your kids in wearing their retainers correctly – per their orthodontist's orders – go beyond that. Did you know wearing a retainer can also help iron out speech problems? More than likely, though, the hardest part of having a new retainer is losing it, commonly to the trash can in the school cafeteria. Getting kids into the habit of wearing their retainer correctly and keeping it safe isn't easy, but knowing its advantages and how to make sure your kids embrace their retainers will help your whole family navigate the process with less stress – and higher marks from your orthodontist.
Retainers for teeth are mostly used as the last phase of orthodontics treatment. After the braces have been removed, teeth can shift back to their original position. So, retainers worn overnight (if not longer) can help maintain the position of straightened teeth.
Straighter teeth are easier to clean, cut down on plaque buildup and reduce the chance of cavities, according to American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). But there are other reasons you may not be aware of. Straight teeth, along with a correct bite, help kids chew their food more effectively. By chewing better, they get more nutrients from their food. One benefit of being able to chew food thoroughly, explains the kitchn, is an increase in saliva production. And more saliva means more digestive enzymes to cut down on plaque buildup and decrease cavities.
When kids – and adults – wear their retainers correctly, it helps keep teeth aligned, offsetting the risk of poor general or oral health, per the International Journal of Dentistry. And according to the American Diabetes Associations (ADA), poor oral health can exacerbate the blood-related effects of diabetes. So wearing a retainer correctly, in addition to flossing, brushing and rinsing with products specially formulated for use after braces, can help counteract diabetes-related ailments.
A lesser-known advantage is that for some kids, retainers can help their breathing. Special types of retainers, according to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, are used to not only help straighten teeth or align jaws, but for trouble with snoring or breathing at night.
Some kids wear retainers to help their speech as well. KidsHealth states that retainers can help to adjust tongue placement so kids can form sounds correctly as they develop their vocabulary.
Know that the time it takes to form a new habit is different for everyone, so making it fun for your kids can make it easier. Here are some tips for getting in the habit of wearing a retainer and not misplacing it:
Pick up a bigger carrying case and keep the retainer case in this one. Whether it's a bag with their favorite action hero or a purse that's their favorite color, your child is less likely to forget a big bag over a small, plastic case.
Write a note and put it in your child's retainer case. It can be fun for your child to read and acts as a reminder for them to put their retainer away.
Just like keys, keep the retainer case in the same spot. And a brightly colored case is less likely to be overlooked or misplaced during a busy part of the day.
Your kids may have outgrown the tooth fairy, but the fun of waking up to small gifts under their pillow for a full night of wearing their retainer in the first week never hurts.
It can be hard for your kids to consistently wear a retainer correctly and for long periods of time. But after a while, it will be a part of your kids daily life – just like the compliments they'll receive from their well-maintained smiles.