The retention phase allows for the majority of growth
How Long is the Retention Phase?
When Concord, CA Orthodontist Dr. Aurora Patino, DDS removes your braces, we will begin the retention phase of your treatment. The retention phase lasts for a minimum of 6 months. It is normal for teeth to be slightly mobile when orthodontic appliances are first removed. Retainers hold the teeth in their new positions while the bone stabilizes around the roots. Remember to remove your retainers before brushing, and brush your retainers before placing them back into your mouth. If at any time post-orthodontic treatment you lose your retainers, they break, or just aren't fitting properly, please call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our Treatment Coordinators. You worked hard and made a great investment in a beautiful new smile and we want to be sure you have the tools you need to maintain it! Your final orthodontic result depends on your retainers, so follow through with the hard work you’ve put in so far. Remember to remove your retainer before brushing, and brush your retainer with soap and cold water before placing it back in your mouth.
Retainers are Forever and Factors Causing Movement in the Retention Phase
The 6-month retention phase allows for a majority of growth and settling to occur so that the teeth and jaws are as stable as possible. However, living tissue is always subject to change from posture, habits, muscle pressure, etc. The eruption of teeth, dental restorations and the aging process all contribute to unwanted tooth movement. Forces exerted by the lips and tongue can also cause subtle changes in tooth positions. Habits such as biting your nails or chewing on pencils put enough pressure on the teeth to move them as well. Recent studies have indicated that growth occurs in small amounts throughout life. Thus, teeth and jaws can shift at any time in varying degrees, which usually depend on the original malocclusion, the facial muscle structure and the amount of residual growth. Some believe that un-erupted wisdom teeth are a factor in movement of teeth, but this has not been proven conclusively and tooth shifting has been seen to occur in people with no wisdom teeth. Removal of wisdom teeth or 3rd molars may be recommended due to lack of adequate space in the mouth for normal eruption. The only way to maintain the tooth alignment indefinitely is with permanent guidance or lifetime retention. This means wearing a removable retainer 4-7 nights per week forever. Removable retainers must be used in both the upper and lower jaws
Why is retention necessary?
Retention is arguably one of the most important phases of your orthodontic treatment. Why is retention a necessary? Because your teeth can move again after braces are removed. Why does this movement or relapse occur? There are actually 2 reasons for relapse:
Short-term relapse (less than one year after treatment): Relapse during this time is primarily caused by elastic fibers that are part of your gum tissue. The teeth are connected to both the bone and soft tissues (gums) by many different types of fibers. After orthodontic treatment, most of those fibers reorganize and stretch to accommodate the new position of the tooth. However, some of the fibers still “remember” the previous position of the tooth, especially if the tooth started out very rotated. Those patients that follow our recommended guidelines for retainer wear will find that they have fewer problems with their teeth shifting in future years than those that do not wear their retainers much during that first year.
Longer –term relapse (more than one year after treatment): Relapse more than one year after treatment can occur because our bodies are always changing throughout life. As we age, teeth naturally shift to the middle and crowd. What actually causes crowding of the lower front teeth is what Concord, CA Orthodontist Dr. Aurora Patino, DDS calls late mandibular growth. Therefore, periodic use of retainers after the first year following orthodontic treatment is important in order to maintain your smile for years and years.