A retainer is a type of brace which is available as fixed or removable and is used at the end of a course of treatment. The retainer is worn over the teeth in the same way as a brace and helps to keep the newly aligned teeth in place.

This enables the surrounding teeth and gums to become accustomed to the new teeth and allows normal functioning to take place.

If a retainer is not worn there is a risk of the teeth moving back into their old, misaligned position. If this occurs then it is very difficult to re-align them.

Wearing a retainer

Wearing a retainer is the same as wearing a brace. You may experience some difficulty with speech and find that you swallow much more than normal.

Both of these will soon pass. Practise saying a few words with the retainer in until it feels comfortable to do so. The excess swallowing will settle down to normal within a short space of time.

How long do I need to wear a retainer?

This all depends upon your orthodontic problem. But most patients wear a retainer for up to 6 months after the end of their brace treatment.

You may have to wear this the entire time before cutting down to evenings only. Your orthodontist will advise you about this.

Caring for a retainer

If you have a removable retainer then take this out before you clean your teeth your teeth and gums but make sure you clean this as well. Clean your teeth 3 times a day (after every meal) and use fluoride toothpaste. Clean the retainer carefully with a brush, rinse and then replace in your mouth.

Try and avoid sugary foods and drinks as they cause tooth decay and gum disease. But if you do succumb then ensure that you clean your teeth straight away. Do the same with your retainer especially if you have the fixed variety.

You will be asked to attend a series of regular check ups with the orthodontist to assess the condition and fit of your retainer. If the retainer becomes damaged or broken then contact your orthodontist.