Post-Orthodontic Questions for Retainers 

By: Lee Ann Brady DMD
Topic originally appeared on Dr. Brady allowed permission for igniteDDS to share with our readers

As the orthodontic treatment comes to an end, patients can’t wait to remove their braces or Invisalign.

Tired of keeping braces and the intricacies of caring for teeth that come with them, they tend to spend as little time as possible in their retainers.

We have a transition of questions from ‘How long until I get my braces off?’ to ‘How long should I wear the retainers?’.

While it’s understandable why they desire a swift end to retainer use, it’s crucial to help the patient understand the significance of post-treatment care for maintaining the newly achieved smile as long as possible.  

It’s common in my practice for patients to ask me how long they have to wear them, with the implicit understanding that an extended time period is undesirable. 

As dentists, we don’t want to give the patient bad news, but we also want to ensure they receive the best healthcare possible. In this case, we can benefit most from looking at the question with an orthodontist’s perspective.

Though there isn’t a ‘right’ answer, we can find one that will serve our purposes best.

Why You Need a Strategy for Dealing With Questions About Retainers

I dislike questions about retainers because there isn’t a simple answer. It makes me uncomfortable when patients ask.

For one thing, practicing dentistry has shown me the evidence that relapse occurs after ortho.

Patients will ask about retainers immediately at the end of their Invisalign trays or even years later when they still have a lingual wire. Instead of speculating about how to respond, I’d like to consult with an expert.

The short answer to orthodontic retention is that it’s never OK for patients to stop wearing retainers. But clearly, this is not going to be satisfactory for many patients.

The long answer requires us to ask orthodontists:

  • What about retention is the orthodontist responsible for?
  • When does their responsibility end?
  • What do I do if I have a patient whose orthodontist cannot or will not see them for retention?
  • Should I be responsible for a patient’s retention?
  • If so, what should I know about retainers?

We will likely have to deal with patients curious about their retainers. This means we should have a strategy in place to answer their questions.

In Conclusion

Curious to delve deeper into retention and orthodontic treatment care? Read the next blogs written by me on the Pankey Institute website to manage these tricky situations and be prepared to answer your patients with competence next time. Visit Pankey to learn more.

Keep Reading: Predictable Veneers: The Art of Shrink Wrap Provisionals

Dr. Lee Ann Brady

Dr. Lee Ann Brady

Dr. Lee Ann Brady lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband Kelly and three children Sarah, Jenna and Kyle. She owns Desert Sun Smiles Dental Care, a private restorative practice in Glendale, Arizona. Outside of her private practice, Dr. Brady is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute, recognized for hands-on education programs focused on occlusion and restorative dentistry. She is the founder and lead curator of Restorative Nation, a supportive learning community for dentists.