How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer For?

The minute your traditional braces are removed or you have worn your last clear plastic aligner tray you may think you no longer have to deal with orthodontic appliances. After all, you finally have the straight, dazzling smile that you have always wanted. Unfortunately, there is one last orthodontic appliance you will have to deal with – a retainer.

While it may be disappointing to learn that you will still have to deal with wearing an orthodontic appliance after you have had braces or Invisalign, there is some good news. The good news is that, if worn as your orthodontic recommends, you may be able to transition to only having to wear a retainer every other night.

Why Orthodontic Patients Need Retainers

The goal of orthodontic treatment, whether it is traditional braces or Invisalign, is to subtly and slowly shift the placement of your teeth. The metal wires or clear plastic aligner trays are uniquely designed to move, rotate, and shift your teeth into proper alignment. It can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years for your teeth to become properly aligned.

Once your orthodontic treatment is completed, the wire braces are removed and the clear plastic aligner trays are discarded. However, that doesn’t mean your teeth will permanently stay in their new spot. If left with no guidance or placeholder, your teeth will slowly start to slip back into their old, misaligned positions. The teeth will shift because the bone around the roots is soft and unformed making it extremely easy for the teeth to shift around. If your teeth shift too much, you could need to undergo orthodontic treatment all over again in order to straighten your teeth. That is why retainers are needed.

Retainers serve as a placeholder for your teeth. They are uniquely created so that your teeth are stabilized in their new position. If you don’t want your teeth to shift back into their old spot, you will need to wear the retainer exactly as your orthodontist recommends.

How Long Do I Have to Wear My Retainer?

The simple answer to this question is the rest of your life. If you wish to maintain your straight, beautiful smile you will wear your retainer so the teeth don’t start to shift and move around.

It can be disheartening to discover that you will need to wear a retainer for the rest of your life, but there is some good news. You won’t be wearing your retainer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the rest of your life. In fact, after awhile you won’t even need to wear it every day.

When you first get your retainer, your orthodontist will recommend that you wear it for 22 to 24 hours a day. This may seem extreme, but it helps keep your teeth in their proper place and gives the bone around the root time to stabilize. Once your orthodontist has determined that the bone has stabilized, you may be told you can transition to wearing the retainer only at night. Orthodontists estimate that wearing the retainer for 6 to 8 hours a night provides enough stabilization and guidance to prevent the teeth from moving.

You will have to wear your retainer for several hours every night for at least a year. In some severe cases or if the bone is slow to stabilize, you may have to wear the retainer for a year and a half to two years. After the bone has fully formed at the base of your teeth, your orthodontist will give you the green light to wear the retainer every other night.

Correct Problems Before They Become Too Severe

Problems may start to arise if you choose to wear your retainer every other night. Luckily, most of the problems can be quickly corrected by wearing the retainer every night.

Orthodontic patients will notice problems starting if they place the retainer in their mouth and it feels uncomfortable or too tight. This is an indication that your teeth are starting to shift and you will want to guide them back to their proper place before they become severely misaligned.

If you have any questions about how long you have to wear your retainer or if you notice any problems with your retainer, feel free to call Stevens Orthodontics. We will gladly answer any questions you have about retainers.


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