Braces are a big project – but your orthodontic treatment isn’t over the day the brackets and wires come off. Sure, you’re done wearing braces. But your maintenance of a straight smile is only just beginning. It’s up to you to retain your results and preserve your healthy, beautiful grin for life – and that doesn’t have to be an uphill battle.
Below, we’ve put together a guide for our patients just leaving their braces behind. If today is your last orthodontic appointment, congratulations! If you’re ever uncertain about how to treat your teeth, don’t hesitate to check in with our front desk. We’re your allies in keeping crookedness at bay!
Enjoying a Straight Smile Today – and Tomorrow
Wear Your Retainer
We know how frustrating it can feel to graduate from braces to – a retainer. When are your teeth going to finally be free? Once they’re ready to hold their positions without help. Your teeth are supported by periodontal ligaments, soft tissues that keep them in place. These ligaments need to adjust to the new positions of your teeth, and this takes several months. After that period, less frequent retainer wear is necessary (usually only at night), but is still important to prevent shifting. Some patients need retainers for many years, while others can get away with ceasing use. We’ll let you know when that day comes. And in the meantime, wearing retainers doesn’t need to be frustrating or make you feel self-conscious. Your retainer wear will soon feel like a natural part of your daily routine.
Your upper retainer is likely removable, so you only need to wear it at night once your new smile has solidified. A lower retainer is more likely to be bonded in place on the lingual (tongue-facing) side of the teeth. Many patients keep their lower retainers as they move through adolescence into adulthood, as the jaw continues growing into the mid-20’s.
Here’s how to keep your retainer in good shape:
- Take it out when eating – It’s not good for your retainer to eat while wearing it. This also makes it easier for food particles/bacteria to become trapped against or between your teeth. Keep a retainer case in your purse, backpack, or briefcase and pop it in when snacking.
- Clean your retainer carefully – Use a toothbrush to gently brush both sides of the retainer’s plastic plate. Use warm water, and occasionally use a cleaning solution to prevent bacterial growth.
- Keep it in a safe place – Don’t lose your retainer! This not only means paying to replace it, but potentially seeing your teeth grow crooked while waiting to get a new one. Always keep your retainer in a case when it’s out of your mouth, not in a napkin (this just opens it up to getting thrown out by an unsuspecting bystander). And remember that dogs love chewing on retainers and will grab them given the chance!
Post-Braces Dental Care
You’ll feel a little strange after getting your braces off – after all, your mouth has suddenly lost a lot of material! Your teeth will feel oddly slimy at first, but this sensation will fade within a day or so. Getting your braces off won’t hurt, there will just be a little pressure. But you may experience some soreness while getting accustomed to your new retainer.
Here are the first things on your list post-braces:
- Schedule a cleaning – It can be difficult to clean your teeth properly while wearing braces. Set up a dental exam to remove any plaque and get back to a clean place.
- Treat decalcification – White spots may have shown up on your teeth while you were in braces. This is due to inadequate oral hygiene, with plaque forming on teeth and remaining in place. It dissolves enamel and causes localized decalcification. You can fix these spots with certain toothpastes that help remineralize enamel; dental treatment may also be necessary to treat cavities. See your dentist for help.
- Return to your regular diet (but don’t go nuts) – It can be tempting to dive into all the sticky candy you can stomach, but your teeth are sensitive and vulnerable right after braces. Try to moderate your sugar intake, and brush regularly.
- Take note of shifting teeth – If something seems like it’s changing, check in with your orthodontist. The sooner you get in touch, the less damage done.
- Practice great oral hygiene – You want to preserve your straight smile for life. This means preventing problems like cavities, periodontal disease, and tooth loss. Tooth loss is the ultimate enemy to a straight smile because surrounding teeth drift into the gap left behind. Be sure to brush and floss regularly, and schedule exams twice yearly.
Loving Your Braces Experience
In order to feel positive about your braces, life after orthodontic treatment needs to be all that you imagined. If you follow these steps, you should be able to avoid any obstacles or the reappearance of a crooked smile. Remember: if you’re ever unsure of what to do next, just give us a quick call.