Dental Education Lecture: What Should We Do after Braces are Removed?



After one or two years of orthodontic treatment by wearing braces, our teeth are well aligned.  Everybody is happy about it.  However, after braces are removed, our teeth have tendency to relapse, returning their awkward position.  This is highly undesirable.  We have to wear retainers to keep our teeth in the same place.  There are two major types of retainer: removable (Fig.1) and fixed (Fig.2).  Removable means that kids can take out and take in.  Fixed is something kids cannot move.

The advantage of removable retainer is that it is easy to clean our teeth.  Kids take it out when they eat.  After meal, they need to brush both the teeth and removable retainer before wearing it again.  The disadvantages of removable retainer is that it is easily lost and that kids do not wear it as long as we expect.  Kids may misplace it, or lose it in school cafeteria.  For the first year after brace removal, they are required to wear removable retainer day and night.  After one year, they need to wear it every evening or a few evening a week.  Some of kids do not follow instruction very well.  This causes relapse.

To overcome noncompliance, dentists may choose to use fixed retainer.  They place a wire in the back of our lower front teeth and use a special glue to stick the wire in place (Fig.2).  The drawback of fixed retainer is difficulty to keep it clean if your kids have no motivation.  With improvement of placing fixed retainer, kids may use floss around the retainer. As a routine, we need to wear either removable or fixed retainer or both for an indefinite period.  We should also keep oral hygiene perfect for all our lives.

Xin Wei, DDS, PhD, MS 1st edition 01/17/2009, last revision 03/03/2013