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Why do I have to wear a retainer?

If you’re about to have your braces removed, no doubt you’ll be pretty happy. After all, they’ve probably been an unwelcome resident of your mouth for months, maybe years. Well, don’t get too carried away — your treatment isn’t over yet. You’ll still need to wear a retainer.


It’s important to wear a retainer after your braces are removed.

Why wear a retainer?

Your orthodontist has probably spoken to you about retainers. But if not, let me explain.
In days gone by, once your braces were removed, that was it. However, we now know that retainers are important for keeping your teeth in position.

You see, braces work by applying pressure on your teeth to make them straight. However, when your braces are removed, your teeth still have an inclination to move make to their original crooked positions — it takes time for your mouth to adapt.

Wearing a retainer is a crucial part of your treatment. If your orthodontist tells you to wear one, do it — if you don’t, your teeth will move out of alignment and all the hard work that you and your orthodontist has achieved will be wasted.

How long should I wear a retainer?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t straight forward — it depends on your situation. When your braces are removed, your orthodontist will make an assessment of your smile, teeth and bone structure. Normally a patient wears a retainer day and night for 6 to12 months. Then, they are usually able to cut down to just wearing it at night for 6 to 12 months.

Without wanting to scare you, ideally, wearing a retainer should be a life-long commitment. However, this may mean just wearing it 1 to 2 nights per week, long term.

Different kinds of retainers

There are three kinds of retainers:

1. Metal retainers (bonded retainers) — these are thin strips of metal going across your teeth and are glued to your teeth with dental resin. These are usually worn long-term.

2. Plates — impressions are made of your teeth. This involves your orthodontist filling a tray with a putty-like substance and placing a tray into your mouth and over your top teeth. These are then used to make a special individual plate that fits only you.

3. Clear trays — once the impressions have been made, clear retainers will be made for you — one for your top teeth and one for your bottom teeth. If you are a habitual tooth grinder, clear retainers are good for protecting the surface of your teeth.

Your orthodontist will work out which retainer(s) is best for you after your braces have been removed.

How do I look after my retainer?

Your mouth is home to bacteria, plaque and left over bits of food. So, you should clean your retainer daily. However, not all retainers are cleaned the same way (there are some retainers that you shouldn’t clean with toothpaste, for example), so ask your orthodontist about what’s best for you.

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Three good reasons for using an electric toothbrush

It’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day — you probably know this. But, how thorough are you? It’s recommended that you spend at least two minutes each session. This time should be divided equally between the four quadrants of your mouth (upper right and left sides and lower left and right sides).

Electric Toothbrush

You see, our mouths harbour all kinds of nasties — over 600 forms of bacteria. Though, we need some of these bacteria, most we can do without.

If you don’t clean properly

A consequence of not cleaning your teeth properly is a build-up of plaque — a coating of bacterial film that thrives on sugars left in your mouth. Plaque produces enamel-eroding acids that create tooth cavities. If plaque removal is inadequate, it will accumulate to form tartar. Gingivitis, which inflames the gums and causes them to bleed, is an early sign of tartar build up.

So, it’s important to look after your oral health. An electric toothbrush can make life easier. Here are three reasons why:

1: A more thorough clean

It is easier to clean your teeth thoroughly with an electric toothbrush. There are several reasons for this:

a) The speed of the bristles — an average person brushes a manual toothbrush at about 300 strokes per minute. Compare this to a standard electric toothbrush (over 3,000 rotations per minute) or a sonic toothbrush (over 30,000 strokes per minute). So, over a two-minute session, an electric toothbrush covers a lot of area.

b) Can reach hard-to-clean areas — with a small rotating head, areas, like gum lines, the back of your tongue and the backs of molars are easier to reach. If you wear braces, electric toothbrushes are particularly efficient.

c) Time your clean — some toothbrushes include timers that let you know when two minutes is up. If you struggle to brush for as long as you should, this is particularly helpful feature.

2: Easier to use

You don’t require much effort with an electric toothbrush — it does most of the work. All you do is apply the toothpaste, switch it on and move the toothbrush over your teeth. So, electric toothbrushes are particularly good if you suffer from conditions like arthritis, missing fingers or carpal tunnel syndrome.

3: Impossible to brush too hard

Brushing too hard is bad for your gums. And the thing with electric toothbrushes is it’s next to impossible to brush too hard — you shouldn’t really be brushing. Just hold the brush and let the moving bristles do the work.

Don’t forget to floss

As well as brushing, you should also floss every day. It doesn’t really matter whether you floss at day or night, just as long as you do it. This is because flossing reaches places that your toothbrush can’t — if you don’t floss, you’re, in fact, missing about one third of the tooth’s surface.

Of course these days we’re not limited to using manual floss — electric flossers, like Sonicare Airfloss, are now available. This clever device clears particles and plaque by shooting bursts of air and water between your teeth.

What do you think? Do you use a manual or electric toothbrush? I welcome your comments.

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Four important tips for maintaining your braces

Trying to keep your braces clean? You’ll know what I mean by saying that the wires, rubber bands and springs on your braces are like magnets for food and plaque. If you don’t brush away the bits of food stuck in your braces, your teeth can become stained.

This post includes:

• tips for flossing and brushing
• foods to avoid
• playing sport with braces
• maintenance tips.

If you find this useful, please share. I also welcome your comments.

1. Flossing and brushing

I find Superfloss makes flossing much easier. You can get Superfloss from us at the clinic or from most good pharmacies. Alternatively, some people prefer to use floss threaders, which you can also get from us.

Push the end of the floss through the space between the main arch wire and upper part of the tooth closest to the gum. Work in a gentle back-and-forth motion between the two teeth — don’t use too much force around the arch wire. Products like the Airflosser are also very good.

It’s important to brush at least two to three times a day.
Using a standard soft toothbrush, brush down from the top and up from the bottom of each tooth. An electric toothbrush is also fine.

The key is to spend enough time cleaning. If you don’t have fixed braces, the time it takes to listen to a song on your mobile should be sufficient — listen to two songs if you wear fixed braces.

Once you’ve done this, you can use a proxabrush (otherwise known as a Christmas tree brush) — a brush designed especially for cleaning in between braces. Use several strokes in each direction before moving on to the next space between two braces. Keep going until all your teeth are clean.
2. Foods to avoid

While you can eat most foods if they are chopped into small pieces, there are some you should just stay clear of. Rule of thumb:  if you can’t squash it between your fingers and thumb don’t eat it!

• tough-to-bite foods, like apples or bagels
• chewy foods, like toffee, fruit bursts, muesli bars and bubble gum
• corn on the cob, carrots and nuts
• popcorn, corn chips, bread crusts, pizza crusts — anything with bones.

You can make biscuits soft by dipping them in a warm drink.
3. Playing sport

Wearing braces shouldn’t stop you from playing sport. However, if there is a chance that you could get hit in the mouth, wear a specially-designed mouth guard. These days, mouth guards are designed to fit comfortably over braces and will protect the soft tissue inside your mouth.
4. What happens when the bracket or wire breaks?

Loose braces, loose bands or protruding wires don’t often require emergency treatment. So, here are some tips for getting by until you see your orthodontist.

• Loose brackets — use a piece of orthodontic wax to temporarily reattach loose brackets or place some over the bracket to provide cushioning.
• Loose bands — save the bands and schedule an appointment with your orthodontist. They will need to be replaced or re-cemented into place.
• Protruding or broken wire — you can move the wire to a less troublesome position using the eraser end of a pencil. If it won’t budge, put some orthodontist wax on the protruding end. DO NOT attempt to cut the wire. This can cause you to swallow a piece or inhale it into your lungs.
• Loose spacers — if your spacers fall out completely, they will need to be repositioned or replaced.

If you found this post useful please share it with your friends. I also welcome your questions or comments.

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