Serving Portland, Oregon and the surrounding areas

After you have worn braces for several months or perhaps even years, you will be looking ahead to the day when the braces are off and you are done. However, there is another step to the process after your orthodontist has decided your braces have fulfilled their purpose. Rather than thinking of it as moving from braces to straight teeth for the rest of your life, which is definitely the ultimate goal, you should think of it as moving from the active phase to the retention phase.

The active phase is that time period when you are wearing braces or other orthodontic appliances to move your teeth into their proper place, as well as to correct the bite. The retention phase is the period when all the new movement your teeth and mouth have endured is “retained.” In other words, they are held in place for the duration. And from that you get the name of the appliance that does just that, the ‘retainer’.


The purpose of a retainer is to keep your teeth in their proper position after your braces treatment. In wearing a retainer, your gums and bone are given time to stabilize around the new position your teeth are in. The amount of time you need to wear a retainer may last a few months or more. You may have to wear a retainer all day when you first get it, but then wear it only at night once your teeth begin to stabilize. Some patients will need to wear a retainer for an even longer period.

Although most retainers look the same, and you have probably seen them several times in your life, all retainers are custom-made. Also, not everyone who wears a retainer necessarily wore braces prior to that. Retainers may also be required to close gaps in teeth that aren’t severe enough for braces to fix. Though this can take several years, many people prefer wearing a retainer to wearing braces.


Dr. Miller will go over how to care for your retainer, but there are several things to keep in mind:

Clean your retainer thoroughly every day. When we eat, food particles are often left stuck in our mouths along with bacteria and plaque. It is important to clear your retainer of all these things on a daily basis. The way you clean your retainer depends on the type of retainer you have and will be explained to you by Dr. Miller or our staff.

Retainers are made of plastic and can crack. When you are not wearing your retainer, you must soak it to keep it moist. Plastic can warp if left in hot water or near a hot surface.

Do not flip the retainer around in your mouth as this will cause wire to bend.

Do not lose your retainer. You need to always make sure that you have a secure place to store your retainer when you are eating as you will need to take it out of your mouth during that time period. Searching through a trashcan for your retainer at lunch is not a good way to spend time and it can be costly.

If you live in the Salem or the Mid Willamette Valley area and have questions about retainers, please contact Miller Orthodontics for an initial consultation.