If your child is shortly due to get their braces removed then they probably can’t wait for this day to arrive. After months of treatment, they will get to see their newly straightened smile for the very first time. However, this isn’t the end of their orthodontic treatment as once braces are removed it will be necessary for your child to wear their retainers. These can be removable or fixed dental appliances.
Your Teeth Are Constantly on the Move
It’s easy to imagine that once teeth are straightened then they will stay firmly in place. In fact, if teeth have the ability to move for orthodontic treatment, then they can continue moving after it is finished. It might be hard to imagine, but your teeth are moving very slightly all the time. Whenever you bite down or chew, then this results in tiny tooth movements.
The reason why teeth are able to move is because they are attached to the jawbone by what are called periodontal ligaments. These ligaments are stretchy, allowing for very slight tooth movements. The bone surrounding teeth is called alveolar bone and it’s actually quite fragile. Bones are living tissues, and your alveolar bone is constantly renewing and reshaping itself in response to the forces it receives.
How Orthodontics Braces Help Remodel Your Periodontal Ligaments and Bone
Orthodontic treatment is planned to apply extremely precise and highly controlled forces to teeth. Moving them in the correct directions so they become straighter and more evenly spaced. These forces place pressure on the periodontal ligaments and on the bone surrounding teeth.
The ligaments begin to stretch and the bone will remodel itself. For example, bone cells on one side of the teeth will be absorbed due to the pressure. On the other side news bone cells will be created, so the shape of the jawbone will actually change slightly.
How Does a Retainer Help Prevent Tooth Movements?
It takes time for the periodontal ligaments to become accustomed to their new shape. If they aren’t fully remodeled then the ligaments can attempt to go back to their original shape and position. If this occurs, the teeth will be pulled out of their new positions, back into their original arrangement, undoing all the hard work of orthodontic treatment. This is called an orthodontic relapse, and the chances of this occurring are particularly high within the first few months after braces are removed.
At this point, the new bone surrounding teeth is relatively soft and it needs time to settle and harden. After the first few months the risk declines but it never completely goes away, which is why retainers are a necessary part of treatment. By wearing a retainer, your child can continue to enjoy all the benefits of orthodontic treatment as their retainer will hold the teeth in their new and improved alignment.
Quite often they may recommend a child has a non-removable or fixed retainer. This can initially come as a bit of a shock, as it’s easy to imagine this retainer will be highly visible and will require lots of maintenance just like a fixed brace. This isn’t the case, as a bonded retainer will consist of a very thin piece of wire that is firmly attached to the back or inside surfaces of their teeth.
The retainer is bonded in place with dental composite and can only be removed by your dentist. It cannot be seen whenever your child smiles, although they will be able to feel it with their tongue. Once they get used to it being there, it’s likely your child will forget about it.
One major advantage of having a fixed retainer is that compliance will never be an issue and it will not make any difference to the appearance of their teeth. One disadvantage of having a fixed retainer is daily oral hygiene, as it will be much more difficult for your child to floss properly when they have a bonded retainer.
There are many different types of removable retainers and quite often it may be possible to use what looks like a clear plastic tooth whitening tray. This fits tightly but comfortably over the teeth, preventing tooth movements. However, if your child has a removable retainer it’s vital they understand the importance of compliance.
With this type of retainer, it’s still highly possible that our orthodontist will recommend wearing it all the time, only removing it for eating and for brushing and flossing. After the first year or so they may only need to wear it at night and from then on more occasionally as the years pass by. Failure to wear a retainer as directed could well result in an orthodontic relapse.
So, at some point down the line, your child may need further orthodontic treatment to reposition their teeth. If your child is due to finish orthodontic treatment quite shortly, it’s best to get their orthodontist to sit down and explain all possible options and the disadvantages and advantages of each choice. This will hopefully allow your child to make an informed decision about their own treatment.
After all, they will be responsible for making sure they wear their retainer as recommended and that they brush and floss thoroughly. Even if they decide to go for a fixed retainer initially, they can always choose to have it removed at a later date and to continue keeping their teeth in place with a removable retainer. Any child who is about to begin orthodontic treatment shouldn’t be put off by the idea of wearing retainers after their braces are removed.
Retainers are really discreet and do an excellent job of holding teeth in the right positions. Orthodontics can do amazing things in helping to improve a child’s smile and retainers simply ensure they can enjoy the results for life. If you think your child might benefit from orthodontic treatment, it’s well worth booking a consultation with an orthodontic.
If our pediatric dentist thinks treatment may help, they can arrange for you to see our orthodontist. Even if your child is still pretty young, there may be quite a bit we can do as a kid may benefit from an early orthodontic evaluation as soon as age 6 or seven.