Retainers After Braces Are a Must for a Beautiful Smile

Finally, your child is getting his braces removed. It's been a long, hard road to a beautiful smile and straight teeth. Just when you think the end is near, the orthodontist tells you that wearing retainers after braces is not an option — it's a requirement. Believe him when he says that the success of the orthodontic treatment depends upon diligently wearing a retainer.

Why Retainers Are Necessary

Before your child got braces, the orthodontist carefully analyzed his teeth and jaws to develop the best treatment plan to move his teeth into proper alignment. Because teeth are securely held in place by bone and ligaments, it is no easy feat to move them. Orthodontic appliances put mechanical forces on the teeth to trigger changes in the ligaments and bone to allow movement. This is a slow, carefully planned process, and the teeth eventually move into the correct position.

The bite is corrected, and your child's teeth look great. They are not yet stabilized in their new spot. It takes time for the bone and ligaments to retighten and hold the teeth securely in place. Retainers are vital to preserving the great results that the orthodontist was able to achieve. According to, if your child does not wear a retainer at this point of treatment, his teeth will slowly drift out of alignment. It will be back to the drawing board!

Types of Orthodontic Retainers

Orthodontic treatment plans vary, and orthodontic retainers vary too. The type of retainer the orthodontist recommends for your child will be whatever he feels is best to hold the teeth in their corrected position until they are stable. Also according to, there are two basic types of retainers: Fixed and removable.

A fixed, or permanent, retainer is one that the patient cannot remove. The wires fit behind the teeth, and the orthodontist bonds them in place. Because the retainer is fixed, your child doesn't have a choice about wearing it every day. This is probably a good thing. The wires sit behind the teeth and aren't visible, which is another plus.

One type of traditional, removable retainer has thin wires that fit around the front of the teeth. These wires are attached to a hard plastic form that sits against the roof of your mouth to hold the retainer in place. Another type of removable retainer covers all the teeth with a clear plastic form. If your child has a removable retainer, he must commit to wearing it according to the orthodontist's directions.

Tips for Wearing Retainers after Braces

Regardless of which type of retainer your child has, it may take a few days to get used to wearing it. A rigorous home care routine is just as important now as it was when your child had a mouth full of braces. Pay particular attention to all instructions the orthodontist gives concerning wearing, cleaning and storing the retainer. If your child is dealing with mouth irritations due to orthodontic wires or a new retainer, try Colgate® Peroxyl® Mouth Sore Rinse. After wearing your retainer, make sure you clean it thoroughly with toothpaste and your toothbrush and rinse it off. It is important to keep that retainer fresh and clean!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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  • Swish with water before brushing – instruct your child to rinse with water after eating. This will loosen food that may be caught in the braces, then brush thoroughly.
  • Floss once a day – each night help your child floss. Flossing helps loosen food debris and plaque at and under the gum line that would otherwise harden into tartar. It can also help reach the nooks and crannies in the teeth that might be difficult to reach with a toothbrush.
  • Use a fluoride rinse – after brushing and before bed have your child rinse with fluoride rinse to help keep teeth strong and healthy
  • Dental visits every six months – take your child to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning every six months. The dentist can point out areas that need more attention, and help make sure you're keeping your child’s teeth healthy and clean.