Why should you visit your orthodontist after your braces treatment is completed ?
The time has come and you smell freedom from your braces! You’ve waited for this day for a really long time, isn’t it? The freedom to eat whatever you want, the ease of brushing and flossing your teeth and the best part – flashing that perfect smile! Gone are the days where you needed to hide your smile or cover your mouth with your hand while doing so. Another thing that you get freedom from is your orthodontist, who you visited almost every 3-4 weeks in the entire time of your braces treatment. But, really? Can you get rid of your orthodontist forever? Well, not really! Here is the truth about your post-braces days – you need to continue visiting your orthodontist for follow-up appointments even after your braces have come off!
What Happens After Your Braces are Off?
When your orthodontist evaluates your teeth and their alignment towards the end of your treatment, he/she will inform you about the same. In most cases, your orthodontist gives your teeth one extra month with the braces on, in their newly assigned places, to allow them to settle. Then, your orthodontist will take your braces off, a process called ‘debonding’.
Once your braces are off, thorough cleaning and polishing of your teeth are done to remove any debris, plaque and other build-ups on and around your teeth and gums. Once this is done, your orthodontist takes a measurement of your upper and lower teeth and sends it to the lab for the fabrication of ‘retainers’.
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Retainers are acrylic or plastic trays that need to be worn on the upper and lower teeth after the braces have come-off – either for a few years or for a lifetime based on the patient’s case. There are two most commonly used retainers:
- Hawley’s retainer
- Essix or the Clear Retainer
The Hawley’s retainer is made up of acrylic and has a wire that goes around on the front of your teeth to prevent them from moving from their positions. The clear retainer, as the name goes, are transparent trays like the clear aligners, but they do not bring about any form of movement and hold your teeth in their newly assigned positions.
Based on each individual case, your orthodontist will instruct you on how long you need to wear them for. While these two retainers are of the ‘removable’ kind, there is another form of retainer called the ‘fixed retainer’. This is essentially a wire that is placed on the backside of your teeth and cemented with a dental filling material. This is usually placed to last you a lifetime and need not be removed every time you eat, as is the case with removable retainers.
Why Do You Need Follow-Ups?
Once your retainers are given to you and your orthodontist provides instructions with it, you will be asked to follow-up with your orthodontist at regular intervals. Usually, your orthodontist will ask you to visit him every 4-6 weeks in the first six months after your treatment has been completed. The visit frequency gradually decreases over the next 6 months and you will be asked to come for follow-ups every 2 months. After a year of completion of your treatment, your orthodontist will ask you to come for follow-ups once or twice every 6 months.
If you are wondering “Why do I need follow-up visits after my braces treatment has been completed?”, then here is why! Even though your treatment has been completed and you are asked to wear retainers every day, there are chances that your teeth may begin to move around in whatever space they may find. While this doesn’t happen if you wear your retainers religiously, as instructed. But, since the retainers are removable, the compliance of the patient is very important. If you forget to wear your retainer for a few days or believe that your teeth are not going to move, you are mistaken and might end up with a slight change in the alignment of your teeth. This is what your orthodontist wants to check on you with when you come for follow-up visits.
In case your orthodontist finds that your teeth have shifted slightly, he/she can immediately take action to correct them. If you are not regular with your follow-ups, the alignment of your teeth will change and will be beyond the ‘corrective’ stage and you might need to wear braces all over again!