The big day has finally arrived! After several months and sometimes a couple of years in orthodontic treatment, you are ready to get your braces off! Woohoo!! However, it is important to understand that your treatment is not yet finished. Taking your braces off and then just walking out the door would be like getting your car washed and waxed and then driving out into a rainstorm full of muddy puddles.
Braces move teeth in your mouth by applying a consistent gentle pressure to the roots of your teeth which stimulates the bone around your teeth to remodel. This is what allows orthodontists to straighten your teeth. When your braces are removed, the bone around the roots of your teeth is not yet fully “set”. Removing braces and not wearing retainers would be similar to breaking your arm and then not putting a cast on it while it healed. If you do this, the bone may not heal in its proper place.
When braces are first removed, the teeth are somewhat unstable and need to time to stabilize into their final position. This is what makes retainers such an important part of orthodontic treatment. Retainers “retain” teeth in their final position. Most patients need to wear retainers full-time for at least a few weeks after getting their braces off to allow their teeth to stabilize. After a period of time, your orthodontist will tell you when it is OK to reduce the amount of time that you wear your retainers. The amount of time can vary between patients depending on where your teeth started. Teeth never reach a point where they are 100% stable because of all the forces constantly being applied to your teeth by chewing, talking, and swallowing. However, most patients can get to the point where they just wear their retainers at night while they sleep to keep their teeth looking straight and fitting well. Your orthodontist can guide you through the process of getting your braces off to make sure you have a beautiful smile for the rest of your life.