Optimal Duration: How Long to Wear Retainers Daily?

HOW LONG   Should I Wear Retainers in a Day

How Long 

Should I Wear Retainers in a Day?

When you first get your braces off or finish your clear aligner treatment, your orthodontist will provide instructions for retainer wear. For the first few months, most patients will wear their removable retainers full-time, day and night, removing only for meals and drinking, and to brush their teeth and clean the retainers.

In certain cases, the orthodontists may instruct you to wear retainers only at night and to switch to full-time wear if you notice some shifting.

Some minor shifting of your teeth is normal after orthodontic treatment: this is called dental settling. Even with proper retainer wear, there will still be minor shifting as the teeth settle into their permanent positions. If the retainer is fitting well, you don’t need to worry about this minor shifting but contact your orthodontist if you have any questions or concerns or if your retainer isn’t fitting right.

When you reduce retainer to wear to nightly use, you’ll store your retainer safely in a case for the day, and then put the retainer in after brushing your teeth to sleep. Wear them all night long while you sleep, and wash them gently every morning before putting them back in the case.

With a permanent retainer, you don’t need to worry about taking the retainers in and out: you’ll just have the retainer in your mouth all the time, reducing any stress about compliance. But with removable retainers, it’s important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions to ensure the retention phase is effective at protecting your healthy bite and smile.

WHY   Do Your Teeth Shift


Do Your Teeth Shift?

Teeth have “memory”: the ligaments and structures that hold your teeth in place are elastic, and while orthodontic treatment guides the teeth into new positions, these forces will naturally attempt to draw them back to their old positions.

While you have braces on your teeth or are wearing clear aligners consistently, there is a force in place to keep them from shifting out of alignment: this force is moving them towards a new alignment. Once this force is removed, however, there is nothing to guide them, and the natural tendency of the dental structure starts to draw them back where they came from.

This is why retainers are necessary: they are a new force that is designed, not to move teeth, but to prevent them from moving. The retention phase holds the teeth in place so that they don’t drift back towards the old alignment they “remember”.

Even without any orthodontic treatment, research shows that teeth move as you get older due to the natural forces on your teeth: mastication (chewing), bone remodeling, clenching habits, sleep habits like grinding, all contribute to the shifting of teeth over the course of your life. To avoid dental shifting, wear your retainer.

HOW LONG  Do Retainers Last

How Long

Do Retainers Last?

How long a retainer lasts depends on which retainer type you have, as well as how well you care for the retainer. A bonded, permanent retainer usually lasts longer than a removable clear retainer.

Permanent bonded retainer: This type of retainer is glued to the back of your teeth, either on the top or the bottom. If cared for properly, a bonded retainer could last for years. Some patients have been able to wear their permanent retainer for over 20 years, but there’s no guarantee. Natural factors may impact the length of your permanent retainer, such as diet and the natural acidity of saliva.

Hawley retainer: This is a removable retainer made of metal wires and hard plastic or acrylic. This type of retainer is sturdy and durable and built to last for several years. Many patients find Hawley retainers to be more noticeable and less comfortable.

Clear plastic retainers: These retainers are generally worn as a set, with one on the top and one on the bottom rows of teeth. Some patients may be prescribed a combination retainer: a bonded retainer on the bottom teeth and a removable clear retainer on the upper teeth. There are different types of clear retainers: Essix retainers are less expensive and less durable, so they don’t last as long and are more likely to break or discolor. Vivera retainers are the Invisalign brand of clear retainers, and they tend to last longer than Essix retainers. Clear retainers are relatively easy and cost-effective to replace and often come as a package of several sets.

BASIC   Retainer Care


Retainer Care

The following tips will help you keep your retainer clean and working well.

  • Keep your teeth clean and your mouth fresh and healthy. Preventing plaque and bacterial growth is important to protecting your healthy smile. Brush and floss every day: if you have a permanent retainer, use a floss threader and/or a waterjet to remove any bacteria or food residue from under the retainer. Go to the dentist regularly for check-ups and cleaning.
  • Removable retainers should be taken out for meals or drinking. While you’re wearing your retainer full-time, remember to take it out for meals and store it properly so it doesn’t get lost or broken. Store it in the proper storage case, not in a napkin: one of the most common ways people lose their retainers is by accidentally throwing them out in a napkin! Brush your teeth before putting the retainer back in.
  • Clean your retainer regularly and store it when not in use. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions for cleaning your retainer, and clean it every day after using it. You can also soak it periodically for a deeper clean. When you’re not wearing your retainer, store it in the proper case, and out of reach of any curious pets or younger siblings.
  • Repair or replace your broken or lost retainer right away. If you lose your retainer, or it breaks or becomes misshapen, schedule a visit to your orthodontist right away to make sure it gets replaced or repaired. The longer you go without wearing your retainer, the more likely it is that your teeth will start to shift. A broken retainer doesn’t work as well, so be sure to schedule a visit to get it repaired.