One of the most important things to do after completing your orthodontic treatment is to stabilise the end result. This will unfortunately not happen by itself as your teeth continue to shift throughout your life. A well-known orthodontist, Professor Birte Melsen, once said: “Other than diamonds, everything has to be maintained; true stability only occurs post mortem” (JCO-online 2006 volume XL, number 12).

This means that we too must be proactive to ensure that the results of your treatment stay intact.

Three important things that play a role in this:

  1. The end result as envisaged at the start of the treatment
  2. The retention wire that is placed behind the teeth after treatment
  3. The night retainer that is worn after treatment

Only a good combination of these three steps will ensure that your teeth remain stable.

Retention Zip drawing
Retention showing jaw line and bite

The result of your orthodontic treatment

Teeth are at their most stable when they are fully aligned. The teeth are so designed that the smaller lower jaw aligns with the surface of the larger upper jaw. Just as the teeth of a zip fit together, so your molars should also fit together snugly.

If the teeth are well-aligned, they are stable and are less likely to ‘move’.
Badly aligned teeth can move about in all directions, which is not good for their stability. If they are not stabilised, your teeth may move again, even after completion of your orthodontic treatment.

This is obviously not what we want and is why we strive for a) a perfect end result with stable alignment and b) good aftercare. We look at the anomalies in the teeth, what is needed to correct these and how we can keep the correction stable in the long run. Patients often tell us that they are not concerned about their overbite but would like to have their front teeth straightened. Although this is possible, the end result will not be stable and eventually the teeth will move again. A good set of teeth requires more than just straightening a single tooth.

With overbite, the teeth are not aligned and the teeth are not stable.

jawline shoing over bite retention

Read more about the top benefits of orthodontic treatment

The retention wire behind the teeth

Achieving the desired result is the first priority. This is followed by the retention wire. This is a small wire that is bonded to the back of the teeth after treatment to stabilise them. After successful treatment, this wire is placed on the upper and lower jaw behind the front teeth. It stays in place forever so needs to be repaired if it becomes loose or broken.

If the treatment is only partially successful, it may not be possible to place the retention wire.

The night retainer

Step three is a night retainer which ensures that the achieved result is stabilised.

Different types of night retainers

A night retainer is usually a transparent cover that is placed over the teeth. The upper and lower jaw each have their own separate cover. Sometimes a different type of night retainer is called for, for example one which sits in the mouth as a block to prevent the return of overbite.

How quickly the night retainer deteriorates differs per patient. Night retainers used by patients who grind or clench their teeth a lot are more likely to show signs of wear. This is why we always supply a set of 2 transparent covers. On request, we can make extra night retainers at your expense.

How often should you wear the night retainer?

We advise you to wear the night retainer every night for the first year and reduce this gradually from the 2nd year onwards. In the long term, we recommend wearing the retainer once a month to keep the result stable.

How do you clean a night retainer?

You can clean the night retainer with a toothbrush and water. Do not use strong cleaning agents such as denture cleaning tablets. These are too aggressive and can make the night retainer soft and more easily damaged.

What should you do if your retention wire becomes loose?

A loose or broken splint needs to be repaired as soon as possible. We advise our patients to always contact us directly to schedule an appointment. Do not try to repair the splint yourself, but cover the loose parts with the night retainer or wax until your appointment with us.

What if you lose the night retainer?

If you lose the night retainer, it is important to contact the practice immediately so that we can make a new set. The night retainer is essential to stabilise the final result.

This post-treatment is therefore just as important as the treatment itself.

The retention wire and night retainer are essential to ensuring that the results of your treatment are maintained so that you can enjoy straight teeth for the rest of your life.