Does Your Child Need a Retainer to Straighten Teeth?

Young girl wearing a blue shirt with braces smiling

It was a long, uphill conversation to explain to your child why braces were necessary and that, even though it would require many months of wearing them, eventually they would come off. Eventually, your child accepted the situation.

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Then your orthodontist explains that after removing the braces, your child will need to wear a retainer to keep their teeth straight.

It may seem strange that after paying thousands of dollars for braces your kid will have to wear a retainer, but there are good reasons for using a retainer to straighten teeth.

If you’ve questioned why your child needs to wear a retainer to straighten teeth, here’s why.

What Is a Retainer?

First off, we need to understand what a retainer is. A retainer is a small appliance made of plastic and metal that is custom designed for the patient’s mouth. It’s usually removable—though there are fixed versions—and it fits in the top or bottom of the mouth and settles around the teeth.

Retainers can be used to close gaps in teeth, to help with speech problems, and to help with certain medical conditions. Many people who haveworn braces will need to wear a retainer to keep their teeth in their proper positions.

Why Does My Child Need One after Braces?

The heart of the matter is that your child is still growing. Even as a teenager or young adult, often the jaw is still finalizing its growth. This means that after the heavy lifting is done by braces, there is still a chance your teeth and jaw will return to a previous shape if not managed properly. A retainer post-braces is the simplest way to ensure your child’s teeth keep their new shape as they continue to grow.

How Long Will a Retainer Be Necessary?

The time your child is going to need to wear a retainer will vary; every patient is different. Your orthodontist will let you know how long it will be in the case of your child. In many cases, the retainer must be worn all day for the first few months. After that, when your child’s teeth start to settle, they may be able to wear it less and less. Others will be required to wear a fixed retainer for the rest of their lives.

Using a retainer to straighten teeth is an important part of your child’s long-term treatment, both to straighten teeth and maintain a healthy smile. Your child may not want to hear it, but realistically, a retainer may be necessary for years. Still, the alternative is a set of crooked teeth that can cause a whole host of problems from plaque build-up, tooth decay and jaw pain to headaches and more.

It won’t mean much to your child now, but after learning to live with braces for more than a year, a retainer will be a much easier process. Still, getting your child on board today is an important step. Make sure to talk to your child about the importance of a healthy smile and why straight teeth are going to add to their overall health for years into the future.

If your child is resisting, enlist the support of your pediatric dentist and orthodontist; they talk to children about these issues every day and know how to discuss the importance of orthodontics. A retainer to straighten teeth is a valuable ally in the search for strong, healthy teeth.