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Posts for: August, 2013

By Gerald D. Gray, DDS
August 21, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: orthodontics   braces   retainer  
WearinganOrthodonticRetainerPreservesYourWell-EarnedSmile

Orthodontic treatment (commonly known as braces) can be a lengthy process to re-align your teeth to a more functional and aesthetic position. Once the orthodontic devices are removed, however, the treatment isn't finished. Wearing a retainer is the final step to ensuring that the re-alignment doesn't eventually fail. It's designed to do just what its name implies — to “retain” the teeth's new position and prevent a relapse to the old.

This can happen because of the way teeth fit into the jaw bone. The teeth are joined to the bone by the periodontal ligament, which works somewhat like a hammock: the ligament's fibers act like threads that fit into the tooth on one side and into the bone on the other, and hold the teeth in place.

As living tissue, the ligament's cell structure is dynamic and can adapt to the gentle pressure applied by an orthodontic device. However, once this pressure subsides after the device is removed “muscle memory” can cause the ligament to resist the new position and pull the teeth back to their original setting. The retainer helps hold the teeth in the new position while the bone and ligament continue to mature and stabilize around the teeth.

There are two basic types of retainers; the one recommended for you will depend on your age and the extent of your orthodontic treatment. One type is a removable device that is typically worn around the clock initially, but may eventually only need to be worn at night or for even a lesser interval of time. The other type is attached permanently behind the teeth and can only be removed by an orthodontist. Permanent retainers have the benefit of not being as visible as the removable type, and there's no bother with putting them in and taking them out.

You may consider wearing a retainer a nuisance especially after months of orthodontic treatment. But consider it the last lap in a long race — only by finishing can you achieve that winning smile.

If you would like more information on the use of a retainer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers” and “Why Orthodontic Retainers?


ActressKatherineHeiglStraightenedHerSmilewithInvisalignClearAligners

Many adults these days are opting for clear aligners to correct orthodontic problems that have long bothered them. Katherine Heigl is a perfect example. She had one tooth that was out of alignment, and wanted to have it fixed before her wedding day.

“I got them [clear aligners] because of this wonky tooth,” Heigl told In Style magazine not long ago. “It's awesome because every two weeks you switch to a new retainer. Pretty much the perfect way to describe Invisalign is Netflix for your teeth.”

That's actually a pretty good way to describe this highly user-friendly form of orthodontic treatment. Clear aligners are transparent, plastic oral appliances that are changed every two weeks so that your teeth can be moved a little bit at a time, according to a carefully staged sequence. Though they cover your teeth completely, clear aligners are barely noticeable.

In fact, when Heigl excused herself before taking out her aligners to eat, her In Style interviewer said, “Who knew you wore them? I guess that's the point of Invisalign.”

Being able to remove the aligners for eating and, more importantly, teeth-cleaning, is another major advantage of this method of straightening teeth. Successful orthodontic treatment for adults depends on good periodontal health (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth), and the best way to keep your gums and the underlying bone that supports your teeth healthy is to keep up an effective daily oral hygiene routine.

Clear aligners have been improved in recent years to correct more complicated malocclusions (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) than previously; they can even work well for teenagers. But there are still some cases that call for traditional braces. We would be happy to explore all the different options for orthodontic treatment with you, whether you have crowded teeth, an overbite or underbite, or just one “wonky tooth.”

If you would like more information about clear aligners, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about clear aligners in general by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners For Teenagers.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Wedding Day Smiles.”