The big day is quickly approaching. Soon, your braces will have served their purpose, and the repositioning of your teeth will be accomplished. It will undoubtedly feel great to have those braces removed, but you will still need some ongoing assistance to maintain the alignment of your teeth. Retainers are an essential component of orthodontics and are part of your post-braces treatment. Why is your orthodontist suggesting that you'll benefit from a permanent retainer? And is it, as the name suggests, something you'll need to wear forever?

Why You Need a Retainer

Dental malocclusion is when there's an unnatural or problematic connection between your upper and lower teeth when your jaw is closed. In short, your bite is misaligned, but your braces should have corrected this. The trouble is that your teeth and their various support structures assume that malocclusion is their natural state. When your braces are no longer applying pressure to your teeth, they have a tendency to revert to their original configuration. This won't happen overnight (or even to the same degree of malocclusion prior to your orthodontic treatment) but without a retainer, some reversion is inevitable. 

Detachable or Cemented

For many patients, a removable overnight retainer will be perfectly adequate. These retainers are made of lightweight thermoplastic, and it just becomes a matter of habit to remember to slip it over your teeth before going to bed. A permanent retainer is somewhat similar to braces, in that pressure is exerted via a wire attached to your teeth. It's attached to the rears of your teeth and cemented into place, so it cannot be removed, nor should it need much adjustment.

Why Your Retainer Should Be Permanent

If your orthodontist recommends a permanent retainer, it's for a valid reason. The extent of your original malocclusion means that you might be at an increased risk of post-braces tooth mobility. Once a permanent retainer is cemented into place, you don't have to remember to put it in place each night — giving it a clear advantage for a number of patients. So once a permanent retainer is put into place, will it need to stay there forever?

Permanent Isn't Always Forever

Your permanent retainer will be regularly assessed at your ongoing checkups. There might come a point when your orthodontist suggests that the retainer has outlived its usefulness, meaning that your teeth are now unlikely to move to any significant degree. This allows you to transition to an overnight retainer. Additionally, a permanent retainer can become bent or otherwise damaged — usually by eating foods that are too hard or chewy. Improper hygiene can also play a role in the decision to remove a permanent retainer when the permanent retainer has become a magnet for dental plaque and calculus.

Despite its name, a permanent retainer isn't generally permanent but is certainly intended for long-term use. If your orthodontist suggests that it's your best option, be sure to follow their aftercare instructions to avoid disrupting this essential next stage of your orthodontic treatment.