When your days of wearing braces are finally over, you might think you're in the clear. Not so, according to Dr. Debra Cook of California-based Cook Orthodontics. Instead, you'll likely to find you have a choice between wearing removable retainers regularly at night, or having a permanent or lingual retainer bonded to the back of your teeth. Teeth can drift over time once the influence of braces goes away; wearing a retainer after treatment prevents your teeth from moving back into their old, incorrect positions.
If you opted for a bonded device, you may need to consider permanent retainer removal in the future, for any one of these reasons:
Reason #1: Damage to the Retainer
Like any other dental appliance, a permanent retainer can get damaged. Biting into hard foods, injuries to the mouth or simple wear and tear can cause wires to break or teeth to become unbounded from the device. Often, you might not realize that the retainer has detached until one or more teeth begin to move out of position. Regular dental checkups are crucial to ensure that the retainer is in good condition. If not, you may need to have it removed.
Reason #2: Buildup of Calculus on Teeth
Because the wires are attached to the back of either your upper or lower teeth with a form of cement, there's a common opportunity for calculus to build up against the surfaces. This is caused by a combination of plaque and bacteria, and according to the Mayo Clinic, it can cause damage to your teeth and gums as it hardens. You'll need to be doubly conscientious about dental hygiene while wearing a permanent retainer to avoid this problem.
Reason #3: You've Worn it for a Long Time
Although there's no specific time period for wearing a permanent retainer, it isn't entirely "permanent." Some patients have been known to wear the device for up to 20 years, and a study conducted in 2008 by North Carolina-based Stout and Booth Orthodontics showed that in the majority of cases, there were no adverse long-term effects. Dr. Jerry Dunn of Advanced Dental Care of Las Colinas recommends that patients who have invested in orthodontic treatment in their teens use fixed retainers for as long as possible, because the jaw continues to grow into their early 20s. At some point you might feel or be advised that you've worn it for long enough, and want to replace it with removable retainers to use at night.
Reason #4: Pain in Your Mouth
The purpose of the retainer is to ensure that your teeth don't continue to move or shift back into their original positions. If your orthodontic treatment has been successful, you shouldn't experience much residual movement that produces discomfort. If you experience a shift, however, the pressure could cause you to feel ongoing pain. The presence of calculus can also result in swollen, bleeding gums and bad breath. Products such as Colgate® Peroxyl® Mouth Sore Rinse and gel can provide relief quickly, though continual pain might make permanent retainer removal an attractive decision for the long term.
The most important thing about getting rid of your permanent retainer is that it must be removed by an orthodontic professional to avoid damage to your teeth and potential injury to your mouth. Your doctor will remove the bonding cement with a dental drill, ease the retainer away from your teeth and follow up by cleaning and polishing the surface of the teeth.