Retainers should be worn for life, dentists warn

Retainers should be worn for life to stop straightened teeth going wonky again, dentists have warned.

The British Orthodontic Society said new research showed that after teeth had been straightened, they can start to slip out of position.

The end result is a return to crooked teeth unless patients carry on wearing them regularly at night.

Around 70 per cent of patients who wore tooth braces – called ‘retainers’ by dentists — for one or two years needed treatment 10 years later.

The British Orthodontic Society said research showed that after teeth had been straightened, they can start to slip out of position — and that retainers should be worn for life

Simon Littlewood, a consultant orthodontist at St Luke’s Hospital, Bradford, speaking on behalf of the society said: ‘If you lose or break a retainer, there’s a problem because the teeth will probably begin to relapse.

‘If you don’t wear your retainers, we now know the teeth will go crooked again and all that hard work will be lost.

‘In the past, we used to think that once patients reached a certain age, their teeth would eventually be stable.

‘Now we know that’s not true, there is potential for teeth to keep moving throughout life – it’s almost like a normal ageing phenomenon.’

Retainers: The facts 

There are two kinds of retainers: removable and fixed. Around 200,000 people, mostly teenagers, are given either every year in Britain.

The majority of young patients are given removable retainers at the end of their treatment with the instruction to wear them routinely at night.


Parents who spend thousands of pounds on orthodontic braces could be damaging their children’s teeth and gums, an international expert warned in November.

It’s estimated that one in three children would benefit from having braces and similar interventions, which cost between £2,000 and £2,500.

Every year more than 200,000 children and around 1,500 adults have braces fitted in England and Wales alone.

But these increasingly popular tooth-straightening devices are not without risks, warned Professor Robin Seymour, a leading periodontist and former head of Newcastle University’s School of Dental Sciences.

However a lot of people stop wearing them, which can cause the teeth to fall out of their newly-aligned place.

Some patients, especially those who have had complex treatments, will be fitted with fixed retainers.

Why wearing retainers for life is ‘vital’ 

Dr Mick Horton, Dean of the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) said: ‘Many perceive orthodontic treatment as just tooth movement, but without adequate retention evidence shows the occlusion will relapse.

‘It is vital that the whole team including those in primary care reinforce the message and help ensure that the retention provided maintains the correct tooth position for life.’

Closing the gap 

Eddie Crouch, vice chair, British Dental Association said: ‘In many cases, orthodontic treatment can be a lengthy process, but once it has concluded it can come as a shock that it may be necessary to wear retainers for life.

‘There has been little co-ordinated information for patients on the reasons for this and what they need to do if they break or need to be repaired, and the new campaign by the BOS is a welcome addition to closing this gap.’

Richard George, BOS director of external relations, added: ‘Hundreds of thousands of young patients in the UK are referred for orthodontic treatment annually.

‘A year after their braces have been removed it falls to them to look after their retainers and to talk to their dentist if there are problems.’

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