Dental Care

Understanding the Modern Teeth Retainer

 

What is a teeth retainer? It is an item that is especially designed and constructed for an orthodontic patient using plastic and metal wires.

It is normally adjustable through a small expander built into the center of the device, and the retainers can be made for top and bottom teeth.

They are devices that are usually used prior to, after, or at both points in time, when a patient will have braces on their teeth.


Function

The function of a dental retainer is fairly simple. It will use gentle force over a prolonged period of time to correct or hold teeth in alignment.

This is the reason that no two retainers will ever be alike, and that a single patient’s teeth retainer can actually change quite dramatically from the time that they begin using it until the time they have completed their usage of it.

They are more common on the upper teeth, but both types will use a flesh colored plastic that is molded to fit precisely against the interior space of the mouth. The wires will wrap around the outside of the teeth and work to keep them in aligned accordingly.

It is important to remember that anyone who has been wearing braces will have teeth and gum tissue that are a bit “looser” than normal. The retainer is going to ensure that no shifting or realignment occurs as the bones, bums, and muscles slowly firm up and become fully adapted to the changes wrought by the braces.

Not Only For Kids

It is significant to note that a teeth retainer is not going to be a device relied on strictly by kids either and millions of adults will turn to them to help with a range of dental issues as well.

For example, anyone who is a “tongue thruster”, meaning that their tongue slips between their teeth as they try to speak, might benefit from the use of a teeth retainer.

There are also a lot of adults with the condition known as TMJ (temporomandibular disorder), which is when the teeth cannot properly align when the jaw is closed, and for whom a teeth retainer is one of the only cures.

There are also people who suffer from bruxism or the grinding and gnashing of their teeth as they sleep, or even throughout the average day.

This causes the muscles and tendons of the jaw to react badly and can lead to everything from migraine headaches and earaches to the loss of teeth due to fracture or rupture. A teeth retainer is a good tool for people who deal with this issue as well because it helps to slowly force the teeth into good alignment, and this reduces the likelihood that they will end up grinding teeth together.

Orthodontic Development

For the most part, the most common group of people who need to use the teeth retainer devices are kids with braces.

For them, the retainer is a tool that helps to slowly acclimate their teeth to the upcoming application of braces; to close smaller gaps in order to facilitate the work of braces at a later point; or to hold the teeth in place after braces have been used to completely straighten them out.

Remember, most people who wear braces will still be growing, and the teeth retainer is the one sure way to prevent the teeth from realigning or shifting once the more powerful braces have been removed.

If, however, a growing child needs only a small gap or space between their teeth closed, the retainer might be a totally suitable substitute for a full set of braces.

This might mean that a somewhat extended period of use is required, but it can keep costs and associated discomfort to an absolute minimum.

When To Use

Most people will end up using their retainers for roughly six months to a year before or after braces, or when using it for an alternative treatment.

Many people are required only to wear the fixture during the hours of sleep, but there are just as many patients who keep them in their mouths 24 hours per day as well.

Also, retainers cannot be worn while eating due to the fact that they easily slip off of the teeth and can present a choking hazard.

Maintenance and Care

One of the most common concerns about the use of a retainer is the worry that it will be difficult to care for.

There is some validity to this concern because the average retainer will be exposed to the exact same bacteria, leftover food particles, and plaque that the rest of the mouth handles. This means that they can be very dirty and can provide conditions that lead to very bad breath.

Because of this, however, most patients are shown how to properly clean their retainer devices. This usually entails the use of denture cleaning agent, a mouthwash, or a toothpaste that is safe for dental fixtures. 

A lot of retainers cannot be brushed or cleaned with toothpaste because they are made from materials that might degrade due to the drying agents in the products.

Another issue where the care of retainers is concerned is the amount of moisture that the device is exposed too. The patient who allows their retainer to remain completely dried out for a long period of time will run the risk of warping or cracking it.

This means that most patients should have some sort of protective case or special protocol to follow when the device is removed from the mouth for any period of time.

Finally, one of the most common problems with retainers is the breaking and bending of the wires that are caused by the patient flipping the device around inside of the mouth.

This is a very common habit that people of all ages tend to develop, but it is counterproductive and destructive to the device. If you are the owner of a retainer and find yourself “fiddling” with it throughout the day, you MUST find a way to end this habit before it damages your teeth, gums or the device itself.

 

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