Straight teeth aren’t just very attractive, they’re healthy, too. Braces do a great job of achieving straight teeth, but many people find that they can’t keep the results from their braces because they don’t wear their retainers. Now researchers from the University of California hope they’ve found the answer: a “smart” retainer that can encourage users to wear it.

Why You Need to Wear Your Retainer

woman holding a retainerBraces and other orthodontic treatments work by gently pushing your teeth into their new position. Your body responds by shifting the bones around your teeth, removing some old bone and placing new bone. When this is accomplished, your teeth should be straight, and, eventually, they’ll stay that way.

But at first the new bone is just not as sturdy or stable as the old bone. It’s relatively easy for your teeth to drift back to their former positions.

To keep this from happening, you should wear your retainer. It retains teeth in their desired position, and it’s normal to wear it full time for at least 60 days. After that, you will wear it for less time, typically overnight every night.

However, even though your bone is hardened, your teeth can still drift out of place. After all, constantly biting down can create the same kinds of forces that braces use to move your teeth, so wearing your retainer every once in a while can help keep your teeth straight.

Getting People to Wear Their Retainers

The problem is that about 70% of orthodontic patients don’t wear their retainers. And when they do wear them, they wear them for less than 12 hours a day, though many people exaggerate the amount of time they wear their retainer when talking to their dentist.

The main reason people don’t wear their dentures is just that they forget, although the second most common reason is that they find their retainer uncomfortable.

The new retainer from the University of California, called SmartByte, is designed to try and overcome this problem by using Bluetooth technology to link up with a person’s smartphone. The retainer software can be used to set up reminders for wearing the retainer so people don’t forget, and set up a credible reporting system that can motivate people who have just decided not to wear their retainers. Data can be passed on directly to a dentist or orthodontist, so people know they can’t just lie about wearing the retainer.

Although this isn’t the first time that a smart retainer has been used to track usage, it’s a much better approach. Previous units had to be linked to their base at the dentist’s office in order to transmit data, which made it helpful for the dentist, but not for the patient.

Linking the retainer to the smartphone is also ideal because people who are most likely to have undergone orthodontic treatment, teens and young adults, are also the heaviest smartphone users. About 70% of teens and about 79% of young adults use smartphones. Since Americans spend an average of 4.7 hours using their smartphones, and many check their phones last thing before bed, first thing in the morning, or even in the middle of the night, having the smartphone remind people about their retainer seems an ideal solution.

If you are considering braces in Los Gatos, it’s possible this retainer will be available to help you maintain your results. To learn more about your braces procedure, please call (408) 354-5600 for a consultation with a cosmetic dentist at Top Down Dental.