With over 4 million American kids and teens currently receiving some form of orthodontic treatment, there are chances that your kid is one of them. It is estimated that nearly 75% of kids and teens have tooth spacing or alignment problems that require treatment with braces and retainers. So what’s the difference between them?
While most people think that these are used to perfect your smile, there are usually much more serious reasons for getting them. Misaligned teeth can cause pain and discomfort, as well as be hard to keep clean, leading to problems such as cavities and gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis.
Wearing braces or retainers helps realign the teeth, improving your smile and preventing serious dental problems from developing.
The main difference is that braces, with the exception of Invisalign, are glued to the teeth and should not be removed during the treatment period.
Retainers, which are made of molded plastic and wire, are designed to be easily removable and typically, the patient should only wear them for a certain number of hours a day.
It is a common misconception that these types of treatment are only for kids, but the truth is you’re never too old for braces. If you’re self-conscious of your smile due to crooked or misaligned teeth, you could benefit from treatment. And don’t worry, braces have come a long way from when you were a kid and are much less noticeable and painful to wear than they were in the past.
Usually, once teeth have been straightened out by a period of wearing braces, retainers will be used to hold the teeth in their new position while they settle and the gums strengthen. After a short period of constant wear, the patient will only have to use the retainers for a certain number of hours every day and can remove them at night and while eating.
Retainers can be used instead of braces to correct minor problems involving only one or two teeth. If there is a slight gap between two teeth, or a tooth is misaligned, a retainer can be an effective solution. The treatment may take longer than it would with braces, but the advantage is that retainers are much less obtrusive, and since they can be removed maintaining good oral hygiene is not a problem.
While retainers can be a solution for minor problems, the materials they are made from are not strong enough to realign multiple teeth or teeth that are seriously out of alignment. As we said, their main use is to hold teeth in their new position after realignment until they are strong enough not to need support.
Braces, on the other hand, are much more robust. A small metal or ceramic plates are fitted to the teeth and connected by a metal wire. By adjusting this wire, the pressure is put on the teeth and they are gently pushed into the right position.
As they work on all the teeth at the same time, braces are appropriate for treating conditions such as overcrowding in the mouth, overlapping or crooked teeth, and malocclusion, which means one jaw is bigger than the other, causing over- or under-bite.
As you can see, braces and retainers are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably to treat all conditions. If you are still not sure which is the right option for you, make an appointment with us today and our expert orthodontists will assess your needs and explain your treatment options so you can make an informed choice.