Whether you’re still trying to decide if you want Invisalign or you’re getting ready to complete your Invisalign treatment, there’s one thing for sure: you want your results to last.
Will your teeth stay straight after your Invisalign treatment is complete? They will if you follow your prescribed retention plan. And since most of our Raleigh Invisalign patients are adults (who are investing in their own treatment) that usually isn’t a problem. After all, you’ve invested a year into achieving straighter teeth – you want to do everything you can to make sure they stay that way.
Will I Need to Wear a Retainer?
The most important thing you’ll need to do once your Invisalign therapy is completed is to wear a retainer. Invisalign retainers work to “retain” the current alignment of your teeth. They prevent your teeth from tilting, drifting, or shifting back to the location that they came from.
Since our teeth have a sort of muscle memory in the ligaments around them, it’s natural for your teeth to want to drift back to their previous location. No matter how long you were wearing braces or Invisalign, there’s always a chance of your teeth relapsing and going back to their previously misaligned position. A retainer will prevent that. It keeps things exactly where they are.
Even the way your muscles move can affect your tooth alignment. Swallowing patterns, chewing habits, the way you sleep, and how your lips rest against your smile can place gentle pressure that could — potentially — move your teeth over time. When you preserve your bite alignment with a retainer, you’re able to prevent that from happening.
With age, most of us will see what dentists call a “medial” or “midline drift”. In other words, our teeth slowly start to tilt and drift toward the middle of our smile, at the front of our mouth. With each tooth drifting, it creates pressure on the front teeth and the only place they have to go is overlapping one another.
Wearing your retainer will help prevent relapse and midline drifting. They provide the strong reinforcement that goes against other factors and muscle movements to keep your teeth right where they’re at.
How long will you need to wear a retainer? The average wear time will typically fluctuate as the years go by. In the earliest days following your Invisalign treatment, you’ll want to wear your retainer as much as possible. You might even find that you’re wearing it as often as you were your aligners. But with time, you won’t need to do that. After several months or a year at most, you can switch to only wearing your Invisalign retainer while you’re sleeping. Over the years, you might find that you only need to wear your retainer 1-2 nights a week at most.
What Type of Retainer Comes with Invisalign Braces?
Our Raleigh Invisalign patients will receive a special type of retainer called a Vivera retainer. It essentially looks like an Invisalign tray. Instead of a wire retainer you’re used to seeing on teenagers, Vivera retainers are completely transparent and scalloped to the shape of your individual teeth. They’re just made a little differently than the orthodontic trays are.
If for some reason you had a significant gap at the front of your smile or your lower front teeth are at particularly high risk for relapse, we may still need to discuss the option of a small bonded retainer on the back of your teeth. However, Vivera retainers work quite well so you may not need any type of bonded retainer at all. This will be a specific issue that you’ll need to address with our Raleigh Invisalign dentists.
Caring for Your Vivera Invisalign Retainer
You’ll need to know how to properly care your orthodontic retainer in order to help it last as long as possible. After all, you need to keep it for years! As with any other type of oral appliance or prosthesis that you need to use for a long time — like dentures or partials — you’ll want to take very good care of your Vivera retainer.
First and foremost, clean your Invisalign retainer every time you take it off. You don’t want a thin layer of bacteria building up inside of the appliance. Use a soft toothbrush and lukewarm water to clean the inside and outside. If you prefer, you can also use gentle antimicrobial hand soap. Do not use toothpaste, as micro-abrasives could potentially scratch the surface of the acrylic and lead to additional areas where bacteria adhere. Over time if you start to see buildup, you can soak your retainer in an effervescent denture cleaner to loosen up the debris, then brush it clean. Invisalign also makes a special line of cleaning crystals that can be used for your retainer. Just be sure to use them in lukewarm or room temperature water.
Always store your Vivera retainer in the protective case it came with. If it’s not in your mouth, it should be in the storage case. Since these appliances are transparent, they’re easy to lose. But they’re also extremely attractive to pets (primarily dogs and cats.) If you leave one on your bedside table, it’s almost a given that your pet will come and chew it up, making it completely worthless and unrepairable.
Plus, keeping your retainer in the storage case is good practice when you’re out and about. If you remove it for lunch or dinner at a restaurant, don’t wrap it up in a napkin. Otherwise, there’s a very high chance you’ll forget it or accidentally throw it away. Keep it in the case.
And speaking of storage, never leave your retainer in the car or anywhere that’s too hot. It needs to be kept indoors. Similarly, don’t use hot water to clean it. Since your retainer is made from a plastic-type of material, it will do what plastic does when it’s exposed to heat: warp and melt. When it does, there’s no way to shape it back. It will have to be replaced altogether. As tempting as it may be to use hot water to clean it, don’t; instead, stick to the lukewarm water and approved cleaning solutions.
If you lose or break your Vivera retainer, let us know as soon as possible (before your teeth start to drift out of alignment.) Chances are we can pull your digital scan and have Invisalign print a new one. With time, it’s natural for things to get lost or broken. So just remember that when that day comes — even if it’s 10+ years down the road — you’ll still need a retainer to wear.
What if I Experience Relapse?
Without an orthodontic retainer, relapse — as in your teeth drifting back to their previous position — is usually a given. But let’s say for argument’s sake that you are great about wearing your retainer, but happened to misplace it. Or maybe you forgot about it after a trip and didn’t go back to wearing it. What then?
Minor tooth movement is a natural process. And as your teeth start to drift without a retainer, you’ll start to see some relapse occurring. Anything from the way your tongue moves when you’re swallowing to grinding your teeth while you sleep can speed the relapse process along even quicker.
The great news is that as long as you intercept that minimal relapse while it’s still early on, your Vivera Invisalign retainer can correct your teeth positioning. But only if it’s still slight. That’s why you can get away with only wearing them at night or just once or twice a week. Perhaps you went a few weeks without wearing your retainer and then suddenly remember. When you place your Vivera retainer over them, you’ll probably feel some snug pressure similar to what you did during Invisalign treatment. It’s that mild pressure from the rigid material that will nudge those teeth back to where they’re supposed to be.
But if you can’t get your retainer on, don’t force it. Vivera retainers can only correct minor discrepancies in your smile alignment, not major ones. So if it’s been years since you wore a retainer and there’s no way yours is going to fit, you’ll need to discuss other options.
Invisalign Dentist in Raleigh
Raleigh Dental Arts is your choice Invisalign provider in Raleigh. We offer comprehensive clear orthodontic treatment for adults and teens alike! If you’re considering Invisalign treatment or what all the process entails, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our certified Invisalign dentists. We’ll walk you through the process, discuss the timeline involved for your specific smile needs, and even review total costs and financing options as it relates to monthly payments.
Each of our Invisalign treatments will include a clear Vivera retainer at the completion of your orthodontic therapy. We’ll review your home care instructions with you and keep your records in the event that anything needs to be replaced.
Contact our Raleigh Invisalign team today to reserve your no-pressure assessment. Flexible payment options are available!