How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainers?

March 22, 2018

close up of blue dental braces isolated on white backgroundThe days after you finish Invisalign or get your braces off are exiting. You finally have the smile you always wanted!  So, when your orthodontist tells you you’ll need to wear a retainer, it can be a bummer.

How long do you need to keep wearing your retainer? Why do you need a retainer in the first place? Keep reading to find out.

Why Do I Need a Retainer?

After your braces are taken off, your orthodontist will fit you for retainers in order to keep your teeth in their new positions. After your teeth straighten out, the bone and tissue that surrounds them needs some time to adjust and grow in around your new smile.

Unfortunately, your teeth never stop moving. They are constantly undergoing a process called mesial drift, where they gradually shift as you age.  Retainers can halt this process.

In order to keep your smile straight for a lifetime, you will need to wear your retainers for the rest of your life. You wouldn’t want all that hard work to be for nothing, would you? The good news is, as time goes on, you won’t need to wear your retainer as often.

After you wear your retainer for a while, your teeth will take longer and longer to go back to their original alignment, but they will continue to shift slowly for the rest of your life.

Your Teeth Remember Their Original Alignment

A good way to understand your bite’s position is to think of your teeth as having a memory. After your procedure, your smile will remember the position it was in before your treatment. Over the course of your braces or Invisalign procedure, the bones and ligaments that are connected to you smile change, but your teeth have a tendency to drift back to where they started from.

The Stages of Wearing a Removable Retainer

Sometimes, orthodontists will bond a permanent retainer to the back of your teeth. Patients wear these all the time, even while eating, as it can only be removed by a dentist. If your orthodontist takes the retainer out, they will give you a removable one to wear while you sleep.

In most cases, you will receive a set of removable retainers. The progress of how often you wear them looks like this:

The First 3-6 Months: For the first 3-6 months after braces or Invisalign treatment, you should aim to wear your retainer for 22 hours every day, taking it out only to eat and brush. After your orthodontist feels you’ve gotten some stability in your smile, they will approve you to switch to nighttime only wear

The First 2 Years: After your orthodontist gives you the OK, you will only need to wear retainers while you sleep.

From the Third Year to the Rest of Your Life: After the two years of nightly wear have passed, your retainer should still be on your radar, but wearing it every night isn’t necessary. Skipping a few nights here and there are fine. Some patients find success wearing their retainers every other night.