You have probably seen a kid taking out his retainer before taking his snack, and carefully placed it in a container to ensure it is safe while he eat. You wonder why this small plastic mouthpiece is important to him. Let us find out.

What is a Retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic device that is made from metal and plastic and is custom-fitted for each child or adult who needs one. It perfectly fits the mouth and the top of the teeth. Retainers are very common because most people who wore braces need to wear a retainer for a little while after removing their braces. Other people use them to close tooth gaps, help with certain speech problems or to resolve other dental problems.

Why Should I Wear a Retainer?

There are several reasons for wearing a retainer. The most common is to help maintain the new position of your teeth after wearing braces. It is necessary to wear a retainer because as you grow, your teeth also move and tend to shift to another position. Retainer help ‘retain’ their position and prevent shifting, which happens naturally.

Once your braces are taken off, your dentist will fit your for a retainer. There is a certain time and duration of wearing it and the dentist will tell you how long to wear it. Some kids wear their retainer for more than a year.

Other children may wear retainers to close a tooth gap or space or simply to move one tooth. In this case, there is no need for braces as retainers can do the job. To close a space, retainers are usually worn for several years. When you wear a retainer, certain teeth feel pressure and could feel sore for the first several days. If you are experiencing discomfort, there is no need to worry as it is completely normal.

Crib or tongue-cage retainer

Crib or tongue-cage retainer

Retainers can also health a number of mouth problems aside from the moving of teeth. In some cases, they are used to help a medical problem such as tongue thrust – a condition where the tongue sneaks through the teeth when you’re talking. A type of retainer called tongue cage or crib retainer is designed with tiny metal bars that are hanging down from the roof of the mouth. This will keep the tongue from thrusting forward in between the teeth when speaking. In this way, your tongue will get used to position at the roof of the mouth rather than through your teeth. The duration a child wears tongue cage varies depending on the child.

Another use of retainer is to alleviate temporomandibular disorder (TMD). This condition is often a result of a bite problem, where the teeth are not positioned properly when the jaws are closed. This is also called malocclusion. Another reason for TMD is bruxism or the habit of grinding the teeth while asleep. Retainers can help by preventing the mouth from closing completely while asleep, to prevent you from grinding your teeth.