After your child completes “active” orthodontic treatment (moving teeth, aligning jaws), your orthodontist will likely prescribe retainers. This “retention” phase of care is critical to the long-term stability of treatment results. The responsibility for keeping teeth where your child and your orthodontist moved them rests, primarily, with your child. Wearing retainers as prescribed is the key to maintaining the success of orthodontic treatment.

Why are retainers prescribed?

Retainers are prescribed for two reasons: first, to allow the bone that holds teeth to rebuild after teeth have moved, and second, to maintain the healthy new positions of teeth after active orthodontic treatment ends.

Teeth are not set in concrete – they are set in bone, which is a living tissue that continually breaks down and rebuilds. If enough pressure is placed on teeth over enough time through biting, chewing and speaking, teeth will move. By wearing retainers as prescribed, your child’s teeth are more likely to remain where your orthodontist has placed them for optimal function and

How long will my child wear retainers?

It’s common for full-time retainer wear to be prescribed for the first six months after braces are removed. Remind your child to remove retainers to eat or drink.

After the first six months, patients may be able to cut back to night-time wear only, if approved by the orthodontist. Many patients wear retainers nightly for life. Retainers cannot be worn too long or too much. Wearing retainers becomes part of your child’s oral hygiene routine: brush and floss before bed, and wear retainers at night for a lifetime.

How long do retainers last?

With proper care, retainers can last many years. “Proper care” consists of:

  • Storing removable retainers in their cases when the retainers are not in the mouth.
  • Keeping retainers away from heat sources, including the inside of hot cars.
  • Keeping retainers away from pets.

If your child’s retainer appears to have lost its shape, or if it no longer fits when your child attempts to place it on his/her teeth, inform your orthodontist.

How much do replacement retainers cost?

The fee for replacement retainers is determined by your orthodontist.

Are there different kinds of retainers?

Yes, there are two general kinds of retainers: removable (put in and removed by the patient) and fixed (placed and removed by the orthodontist). Your orthodontist will recommend the type of retainer he/she believes is best suited to your child’s needs.

There are two kinds of removable retainers: wire and clear.

Wire retainers are made of wire and a plastic-like material. The part of the retainer that covers the roof of the mouth or goes behind the lower front teeth can be pink, like the inside of the mouth, or in some cases, wire retainers can be customized with fun designs, graphics, logos or different colors for a personal fashion statement.

Clear retainers are transparent trays made of a plastic-like material that are exact replicas of the teeth.

The orthodontist will teach your child how to insert, remove and take care of a removable retainer.

A fixed retainer consists of a thin, custom-fitted wire that is bonded to the tongue-side of upper or lower teeth. If the wire becomes loose on a tooth, it is important to notify your orthodontist immediately.

How are retainers cleaned?

If your child has removable retainers, your orthodontist will explain how they should be cleaned.

The orthodontist will teach your child how to care for a fixed retainer. In general, if your child has a fixed retainer, it is important to brush thoroughly after meals and clean under the wire with dental floss at least once a day. If brushing is not possible after eating, your child should at least rinse with water.

Will my child continue to see the orthodontist post-treatment?

Your orthodontist may schedule periodic retainer checks after braces are removed. If your child has removable retainers, be sure to bring them to the appointment.

If your child should lose or break a removable retainer, contact your orthodontist at once about a replacement.

If a removable retainer is not fitting properly, which may happen if retainers are not worn as prescribed by the orthodontist, or if a fixed retainer comes loose, call your orthodontist for an appointment.

Will I need to take my child to the dentist?

Continue taking your child to the dentist for check-ups and cleanings at least every six months, or more often, if recommended. It is not necessary to bring along removable retainers when seeing the dentist.

Some important advice about retainers?

Retainers work only when they are in the mouth.

Removable retainers should be one of two places: in your child’s mouth, or in the case your orthodontist gave your child.

Removable retainers should not be placed on cafeteria trays. They can be thrown away quite easily.

Removable retainers should not be wrapped in napkins or placed in pockets or purses. Napkins get tossed into the trash, retainers fall out of or get broken in pockets or purses.

Keep retainers out of the reach of pets. Dogs in particular are attracted to retainers.