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The second phase of orthodontic treatment is very important and is called the retention phase.  The first phase is the active movement (braces); the second phase is the passive retention (retainers).  Braces are an active appliance and they are very good at moving teeth, but they do not hold teeth well.  Retainers are a passive appliance and are designed to stabilize the teeth.

The active phase of orthodontic treatment is finished when the teeth are ideally aligned.  At this point, impressions of the teeth are taken and the retainers are fabricated.  When the retainers are received, the braces are removed and the retainers are seated and adjusted.  This begins the retention or passive phase of treatment.

Retainers are very good at immobilizing the teeth so that the bone around the roots of the teeth can heal, like a cast on a broken arm. That is why retainers need to be worn 24 hours/day for a whole year.  This is very important.  If the retainers are not worn all of the time, the bone does not heal completely and the teeth are not stable.  If the retainers are in and out too much, the teeth will be moved back and forth.  Even though they may stay in alignment, they will not be stable because the movement does not allow the bone to heal and relapse will eventually occur.  In order to have a smile that lasts a lifetime, it is very important that the retainers are worn consistently the first year so that the bone heals well.  For the first year, the only time the retainers should be out of the mouth is for brushing the teeth and rinsing the retainers off after eating.  Retainer consistency is the key to a smile for a lifetime.

After a year, if the retainers have been worn properly, they will be switched to night time wear only; daytime wear is not necessary any longer.  It is only the first year that they are worn 24 hours/day.  It is still important that the retainers are worn every night.  Retention/retainer appointments will continue yearly.

There are many kinds of retainers.  Some retainers work a lot better than others.  A good retainer needs to immobilize the teeth, allow the teeth to settle in without getting out of alignment and be easy to wear.  The retainer that best fits all of these requirements is called a Hawley retainer.  A Hawley retainer is the most commonly recommended retainer used to stabilize teeth after braces are removed.

The following before and after pictures are from recent retainer checks of some of our patients.

Patient KS - 7yrs, 11mos Patient LR - 4yrs, 8 mos Patient MS - 8 yrs, 1 mo Patient HP - 4 yrs, 8 mos

Patient BF - 7 yrs, 11 mos Patient TK - 3 yrs, 10 mos Patient JW - 7 yrs Patient BH - 10 yrs, 1 mo

Patient EF - 6 yrs, 3 mos Patient TT - 10yrs, 9 mos Patient CL - 5 yrs, 6 mos Patient NP - 7 yrs, 4 mos

Patient LC - 6 yrs, 10 mos Patient JS - 8 yrs, 8 mos Patient MF - 6 yrs, 8 mos Patient MG - 4 yrs

Michael R Juba DDS - Family Dentistry & Orthodontics - Serving the Brandon and Sioux Falls area for over 30 years.