Can Kids Wear Braces for an Extra Year to Avoid the Retainer?

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Dear Dr. Barakat,

My older son wore braces, and getting him to wear his retainer afterward was a constant battle. Now my younger son, 13, will soon be getting braces. Is there a chance he could wear braces for an extra year so we could avoid the retainer-compliance issue?

— Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent,

Thanks for your excellent question. Your younger son will need to wear a retainer post-treatment for several reasons:

1. During the time it takes to correct a malocclusion (“bad bite”), even the best brushers and flossers with braces are at a slightly higher risk for oral health and hygiene issues due to their braces and appliances. Orthodontists restrict braces to a limited treatment period that is long enough to complete the treatment, but short enough to reduce the risk of decay and gingivitis (gum disease).

2. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, holding teeth in place for an extra year of treatment with braces will NOT ensure that your child’s teeth will stay in perfect alignment when his braces are removed. The teeth are just as much at risk of moving a year later if the retainers are not worn as instructed.

Complete compliance with a prescribed retainer-wearing schedule is the only way to protect against the tendency for the teeth to revert to their undesirable positions.

3. Here’s some GOOD news: removable retainers now come in a clear color, virtually invisible, making it easier for a patient to enjoy their smile after braces while in the retention process of the orthodontic treatment. Your orthodontist may also prescribe night time retainer wear only, which improves compliance and prevents losing the retainers during the daytime (say, on a lunch tray).

In some cases, orthodontists can place “fixed” retainers on the front lower teeth, which are more likely to twist out of alignment than upper teeth. Fixed retainers resolve the issue of patient compliance, but they need to be cared for with proper flossing and brushing, and avoiding hard foods that can loosen the fixed retainer off of the teeth. Talk to your orthodontist about which retainers will work best for your child. In either case, your child’s smile will look beautiful for years to come!

Dr. Rana Barakat, a board-certified specialist in Orthodontics, has been proudly serving Northern Virginia for more than 20-years! She has built her practice on a personal touch and excellent treatment.

As a parent, she understands wanting the best for your children in giving them beautiful, confident smiles. She makes it a priority to ensure optimal results, but also believes that each patient’s experience during treatment is just as important as the clinical result. As the 2015-16 President of the Virginia Association of Orthodontists, Dr. Barakat’s dedication and expertise reflect why her peers continue to nominate her as a Top Dentist.

Barakat Orthodontics is located at 45745 Nokes Blvd., Ste. 175, Sterling, VA 20166. Connect with them by visiting them online, or get social with them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Barakat Orthodontics can also be reached at (703) 433-9330.

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