Do You Have to Wear a Retainer Forever – Breaking the Myth!

So, you’ve just completed your orthodontic treatment and now have the smile you’ve always desired. Congratulations! All those years of braces are now behind you. Finally, you can proudly show off your dazzling whites. But wait, what is it? Your orthodontist recently told you that you need to wear a retainer after braces.

After wearing braces for so many months or years, that’s the last thing you want! But it is vital for the success of your treatment. So, do you have to wear a retainer forever? Well, the answer isn’t as easy as yes or no. Let’s take a deeper look at retainers, what they are, why you need them, and how long you should wear them.

What Exactly is a Retainer?

Before answering how long you have to wear a retainer, let’s first understand the basics. So, what is a retainer? It is a custom-made dental tool used to keep your teeth in their new place following orthodontic treatment. It is typically worn at night and is constructed of plastic or wire.

Retainers are classified into two types: fixed and detachable. Fixed retainers are permanently attached to the back of your teeth and cannot be removed. In contrast, detachable or removable retainers may be removed and replaced.

Do You Have to Wear a Retainer Forever?

The period required to wear a retainer after braces varies from person to person. It is determined by a number of factors, including the severity of your orthodontic problem, your ability to follow your orthodontist’s instructions, and how fast your teeth stabilize in their new position. 

After your braces are removed, you should keep a retainer for at least six months to a year. Following that, your orthodontist may advise you to wear the retainer at night for a few years or indefinitely.

What Is the Purpose of a Retainer?

Even after orthodontic treatment, your teeth are constantly changing and migrating. It means that they may eventually revert to their original position, ruining all the remarkable effects of your orthodontic treatment. Thankfully, wearing a retainer aids in the stabilization of your teeth in their new position.

What Happens if You Don’t Wear Your Retainer?

You don’t want to disobey your orthodontist when it comes to wearing a retainer. Why? Because if you do that, your teeth may revert to their original position. This is referred to as relapse. So what if you relapse? It requires you to undergo orthodontic treatment again, and that would be a costly affair. So you must wear your retainer as directed.

Is it Necessary to Wear Retainers All the Time?

No, retainers are not required to be worn at all times. After six months to a year of wearing your retainer full-time, your orthodontist may advise you to wear it exclusively at night. Depending on the circumstances, some of you may need to wear your retainer for a few years or permanently. But that’s a rare occurrence.

However, your orthodontist is the best person to tell you how long you need to wear a retainer after braces according to your oral status.

When Can I Stop Wearing My Retainer At Night?

For the first two years, wear your retainer every night like you did with braces. After two years, you can switch to wearing your retainer only at night, every night. After three years, you might be able to wear it every other night but check with your orthodontist first.

How Do Retainers Function?

Retainers retain your teeth in their new place by exerting pressure on them. In this way, they also aid in preventing your teeth from shifting and returning to their natural place. Removable retainers fit snugly over your teeth, whereas fixed retainers connect a wire to the back of your teeth.

What Kinds of Removable Retainers Are Available to You?

Removable retainers come in a variety of styles, including:

  • Hawley Retainers: The most frequent form of detachable retainers – they are constructed of wire and acrylic.
  • Essix Retainers: These are translucent plastic retainers that are nearly unnoticeable.
  • Invisalign Vivera Retainers: These are identical to Essix retainers and are created by Invisalign.

You can read more about types of retainers here – Permanent Retainer vs. Removable Retainer: Learn the Difference!

What Are Some Tips for Maintaining Your Retainer?

Follow these techniques to keep your retainer in good condition:

  • Use a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean your retainer on a regular basis.
  • Store your retainer in a case while not in use.
  • Avoid exposing your retainer to high temperatures, as this might cause the plastic to deform.
  • Avoid chewing on your retainer, as this might cause it to break.
  • Avoid using alcohol-based mouthwash on your retainer since it can harm the plastic.

To summarize, using a retainer after braces is critical for maintaining your beautiful smile. How long you have to wear a retainer depends on your oral health status and your orthodontist’s recommendation. It’s crucial to follow your orthodontist’s instructions to avoid relapse.

There are different kinds of retainers. Your orthodontic can suggest which works best for you. However, don’t forget to clean your retainer on a regular basis, keep it in a case, and avoid exposing it to hot temperatures or chewing on it.

Remember that wearing a retainer is a tiny price to pay for having beautiful, straight teeth for the rest of your life. Always keep smiling!

Dr. Satish Pai, M.D.S

Dr. Satish Pai is an orthodontist and Ivy League trained dentist who has served as a faculty at Columbia University. He believes a perfect smile not only makes a person look great but feel great. As the founder of Putnam Orthodontics and a Partner at Brite Orthodontics, he is dedicated to providing the best orthodontic treatments to his patients. He also writes to educate people about everything orthodontics and the importance of correctly aligned teeth along with good oral health. In his free time, you can find him golfing, doing yoga or surfing, and spending time with his family.

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