Dentists have discovered that teeth straightened by braces will go crooked again unless a retainer is worn by the patients for life after they have their braces removed.
It was previously thought that using a retainer, or tooth brace for just one or two years after having your braces off would be enough to keep the teeth straight for a lifetime. But in fact, the retainer needs to be worn every night for the first procedure to have any effect. The news was released by the British Orthodontic Society who have done research into customers returning to their dentists a decade after their braces' removal to have work done to fix previously straight teeth. The teeth had returned to their previous crooked positions before the initial braces.
Dentists warn that all the work of braces may be undone unless the prescribed retainers are worn for a long time. Simon Littlewood, a consultant orthodontist at St Luke's Hospital, Bradford, explained, "If you lose or break a retainer, there's a problem because the teeth will probably begin to relapse. If you don't wear your retainers, we now know the teeth will go crooked again and all that hard work will be lost. In the past, we used to think that once patients reached a certain age, their teeth would eventually be stable. Now we know that's not true, there is potential for teeth to keep moving throughout life – it's almost like a normal ageing phenomenon.'"
A lot of people are given braces when they are teenagers, at the end of this treatment a retainer is prescribed but is not always worn for the required amount of time. As teenagers grow, the retainer may become uncomfortable and a new one needs to be fitted, however, the recently gathered statistics show this is not happening. Dr. Mick Horton Dean of the Faculty of General Dental Practice says, "Many perceive orthodontic treatment as just tooth movement, but without adequate retention, evidence shows the occlusion will relapse. It is vital that the whole team including those in primary care reinforce the message and help ensure that the retention provided maintains the correct tooth position for life."
What happens after the braces come off?
Many people who undergo orthodontic treatment wrongly assume that once the braces are off the treatment is over. But braces and other types of orthodontic treatment should be seen as a lifelong project. The British Orthodontic Society plan to start an information campaign for new and existing patients to educate them on exactly what is necessary to help them retain their lovely straight teeth. The education campaign will include information pamphlets aimed at young braces patients. They will be encouraged to make regular appointments with their specialists after their braces are off for monitoring and maintenance of their retainer.
Braces and retainer technology have improved dramatically over the last ten years. The traditional wire braces that have become infamous in pop culture for causing all sorts of trouble for teenagers are now much slimmer and often use tooth-colored brackets to reduce their visual impact. Other types of teeth correcting devices include lingual braces and tooth aligners that are much more inconspicuous.