Table of Contents
- What Are Retainers?
- Permanent Retainer
- Wearing Retainers After Braces
- Is It for Life?
- How Many Hours per Day?
- How Many Days per Week?
- Proper Care
- Not Wearing It
- Retainer Treatment Timeline FAQs
Immediately after finishing your braces or aligner treatment plan, you’ll likely have to wear your retainer on a full-time basis for up to 22 hours a day. You’ll only take your retainer out to eat and brush and floss your teeth.
After four months to a year, most people can transition to part-time retainer use, wearing the device only at night.
Because teeth shift naturally and may move because of other factors, you’ll have to wear your retainer part-time indefinitely to protect your corrected bite and smile.
Some people will have to wear a retainer for at least 10 years. Many orthodontists recommend wearing the retainer part-time for the rest of your life.
What are Retainers?
Think of a retainer as protection. You've invested in your smile with braces or aligners. Your retainers ensure that your teeth stay in the right place.
Retainers keep your smile in place when active treatment is complete. Adults need to wear their retainers for life, but adolescents may be able to stop wearing them after about 10 years.
Multipletypesof retainers exist, including these:
These are plates that sit on the roof of the mouth, and wires wrap around the front of the teeth to keep the plates in place. You can remove these retainers when you eat, or you may only wear them at night.
These retainers look a little like aligners. They wrap all the way around the teeth. Similarly, you remove them when you eat, or you might only wear them when you sleep.
These retainers sit behind the teeth, so they're not visible, but they never come out. You've probably heard of traditional and plastic retainers before. But permanent retainers might seem a little unusual to you.
Retainers keep your smile in place when active treatment is complete and adults need to wear their retainers for life, but adolescents may be able to stop wearing them after about 10 years.
What is a Permanent Retainer, and How Long Is It Worn?
A permanent retainer is glued to the back of your teeth. Your orthodontist installs it, and it never comes out unless someone else removes it and dissolves the glue.
There’s no specified time for permanent retainer use, but you should check in annually with your orthodontist to ensure the retainer isn’t causing decay or bacteria buildup, and that it doesn’t need to be removed or cleaned.\ \ Experts say permanent retainers are typically recommended for people who had teeth that met these criteria:
- Very rotated
- Spaced far apart
Teeth like this are very prone to take up their old positions, and they need the constant presence of a retainer to keep them in line and in place.\ \ A permanent retainer may also be recommended for people who struggle to follow instructions. You can't take it out, so you're not tempted to take a break from it. If you know you won't wear a removable retainer as instructed, a permanent version may be smart.\ \ But permanent retainers also come with some serious drawbacks, including risk of the following:
- Damage: If the permanent retainer becomes broken, it can damage the tooth or gums.
- Decay: Any fixed device can make it more difficult to clean your teeth, as plaque and bacteria can collect in the spaces between the wiring and the teeth and gums.
- Discomfort: If there’s any friction between the retainer and tongue, chafing can be a problem.
Why You'll Be Wearing Retainers after Braces for a Long Time
Retainers aren’t just something you wear after you get your braces off. They’repart of your orthodontic treatment. Braces have moved your teeth into their ideal positions, and a retainer will keep them there (“retaining” your corrected smile and bite).\ \ If you don’t wear your retainer after completing your treatment, your teeth may move or shift back to their old position or to new incorrect positions. This can erase all of the work and time you’ve put into wearing and caring for your braces.
Do You Have to Wear Them for Life?
Whether you choose a permanent retainer or a removable version, that appliance will be part of your routine for at least 10 years, if not the rest of your life.
Braces and aligners work by applying consistent pressure that stretches the network of tissues that connect your teeth to your jaws. The bones in your teeth remodel and change shape based on that pressure. But some spring in the tissues remains.
The first two weeks are critical. When constant pressure is removed, teeth are tempted to take up their old positions. During this time, you'll wear your retainer all the time to protect your investment.\ \ But even when those weeks pass, you'll need to keep your teeth in their new positions. It's best to wear your retainer at night, every night, to protect your teeth.\ \ If you had your dental work done when you were a teenager, and you wore your retainer for 10 years after treatment, youmay be able to stop wearing the deviceif your dentist approves.
If you had your teeth adjusted as an adult, you'll wear your retainer for life. Your chances of teeth shifting are simply greater, and teeth tend to move as we age. To protect your investment, your retainer should be part of your life moving forward.
How Many Hours per Day Should You Wear a Retainer?
If you recently finished a treatment regime with braces orclear teeth aligners, the first two weeks following treatment are important. During this time, you may need to wear your retainers for up to 22 hours per day, taking them out only to eat and care for your teeth.
After four months to a year (depending on your teeth and treatment), you’ll likely transition to part-time use, wearing the retainer only at night.
How Many Days Per Week Do You Need to Wear It?
You’ll need to wear your retainers every day. While missing a day or night here and there won’t cause dramatic issues, it’s important to make them part of your regular routine.
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Take Care of your Removable Retainers
Because retainers are worn long term, they require regular maintenance and care.
Retainers you can pop in your mouth and remove again are easy to wear and clean. But they're also easy to neglect, and doing so could come with serious consequences.
To take care of your retainers, you must do the following:
Take out the device when you're preparing to eat or when you're going to drink something other than water.
Nasty buildup can make your device both look and taste bad. A thorough rinse under cool water can help you keep the retainer clean.
Keep your retainer in a case when it's not in your mouth. It's very easy to forget these devices and throw them away.
If the devices feel loose or worn, or if they are cracked or damaged,you'll need a new retainer.
Retainers aren't cheap. Researchers say a standard,wire retainercan cost up to $340.
What Happens if You Don’t Wear Your Retainer?
If you don’t wear your retainer, your teeth willeventually shift back to their old positions. This is particularly true in the months and even years directly following treatment with aligners or braces.
After you have consistently worn your retainers for at least 10 years, your teeth might be fixed in their new positions. But if they begin to shift again, you’ll need to return to regularly wearing your retainer.
Many people, particularly those who have braces or aligners in adulthood, need to wear their retainers for the rest of their lives.
Retainer Treatment Timeline Frequently Asked Questions
How long do you have to wear a retainer after braces?
Your orthodontist will likely instruct you to wear your retainer full-time (only removing to eat and perform your daily hygiene routine) for four to six months immediately after braces treatment. To ensure your teeth stay in place, you may have to wear your retainer on a part-time basis for months, years, or even the rest of your life.
Can I stop wearing my retainer after six months?
While many individuals will not need to wear a retainer on a full-time basis after six months, part-time retainer use will be needed to ensure teeth don’t shift or migrate over time.
How many years do you have to wear a retainer?
How long you’ll have to wear your retainer after bracesdepends on your teeth and your treatment plan. Some people may only have to wear a retainer for a few months. Others may have to wear a retainer on a part-time basis indefinitely.
How long can I skip wearing my retainer?
To ensure your teeth don’t have a chance to move back from their corrected positions, it’s important not to skip wearing your retainer. Skipping wearing your retainer once or twice isn’t likely to cause problems, but repeatedly not wearing the retainer as advised could allow for teeth to shift significantly.
Teeth Retainer. Cleveland Clinic.
Orthodontic Retainers: A Contemporary Overview. (2019).The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice.
Teeth Retainer. Cleveland Clinic.
Inadvertent Tooth Movement With Fixed Lingual Retainers. (February 2016).American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
A Survey of Protocols and Trends in Orthodontic Retention. (October 2017).Progress in Orthodontics.
The Reality of Retainers. (June 2018). Nemours.
Taking Care of Your Retainer. (October 2017). American Association of Orthodontists.
Bonded Retainers. (September 2016). Dear Doctor.
You Have to Wear a Retainer. (December 2015).Medium.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.
Because teeth shift naturally and may move because of other factors, you'll have to wear your retainer part-time indefinitely to protect your corrected bite and smile. Some people will have to wear a retainer for at least 10 years. Many orthodontists recommend wearing the retainer part-time for the rest of your life.Do I have to wear a retainer forever? ›
If you have minor dental issues, your dentist will initially suggest wearing retainers full-time for 2-3 months. But you might have to wear your retainers for over 6 months if you have severe dental problems. However, the good news is that you do not have to wear your retainers forever.Can I stop wearing my retainer after 2 years? ›
The First 2 Years: After your initial time of full-time wear, you will be able to start wearing your retainers during sleep only. From the Third Year to the Rest of Your Life: Now, you can wear your retainers a little bit less. Skipping an occasional night or two is no big deal.Do I really have to wear my retainer 24 7? ›
After the recommended full-time period of wearing your retainer is up, you will still need to continue to wear your retainer to stop your teeth from shifting. You won't need to wear it 24/7, but you should aim to wear it nightly for the best results.How long do I have to wear my retainer for it to fit again? ›
A few days or a week: After a very short absence of a few days or a week, it's likely that your retainer will still fit and be able to fix any minor changes in your smile. A few weeks or a month: After a slightly longer period of a few weeks or a month, your retainer may not feel comfortable to wear.What happens if I don't wear my retainer for 4 years? ›
If you neglect to wear your retainer, your teeth may move back into their original position. This is what may happen if you do not wear your retainer after treatment with braces. Your teeth will begin to move back into their initial place as soon as your braces are removed.Will my teeth move back if I start wearing my retainer again? ›
Ultimately, your retainers are made to keep your teeth in place, not to move them, but they may be able to slightly shift your teeth back in the right circumstances. If it has been too long and your old retainer no longer fits snugly, you should contact your dentist in order to come up with a solution.How do I stop my teeth from moving without a retainer? ›
If you are no longer wearing your retainer but are experiencing grinding or clenching at night, your dentist may need to create a mouthguard for you to wear during sleep. The mouthguard will be made of a thin, plastic material similar to your retainer.What happens if you stop wearing your retainer after 10 years? ›
If you stop wearing your retainer, will your teeth move back? The answer is yes. Slowly, your teeth will move and shift back into the positions they were in before you went through orthodontic treatment. Remember, your teeth have a “memory” of where they used to be and will return there given the chance.Will I have to get braces again if I don't wear my retainer? ›
If you didn't follow the instructions because you got tired of wearing a retainer, you lost it, or it broke and you never replaced it, chances are your teeth are not as straight as they used to be. This is the most common reason why people need orthodontic treatment again.
That's because your teeth have shifted out of position. While the retainer shouldn't rip your teeth out of your gums, it could cause them to become loose. That's due to the pressure they put on the teeth. Aside from that, after years of not wearing your retainer, it probably isn't in the best shape.How often should you wear a retainer after 10 years? ›
You should wear your retainers nightly for at least a year. After that, you can shift your wear to every other night or so. After a few years, most individuals choose to wear theirs at night around three to five times a week.
Usually, it takes months or even years to push your pearly whites into place, and it takes time for them to get used to their new position. While it's normal for teeth to shift after braces, it's also essential to follow your orthodontist's recommendations to keep your smile in place.Can orthodontists tell if you don't wear your retainer? ›
Yes, your orthodontist will be able to tell from the alignment of your teeth if you aren't wearing your retainer at night time. Your orthodontist will not force you to wear your retainer if you really don't want to, but they will encourage you to consider this for the success of your treatment.Can tight retainer damage your teeth? ›
A too-tight retainer can damage your teeth and the surrounding gums. The retainer also could become stuck, which would constitute a dental emergency for which you would need immediate care. A retainer that is too loose won't damage the teeth like forcing in a tight retainer can.Can a tooth move overnight? ›
So yes, teeth move overnight, though the change might be imperceptible at first. Regardless of dental decay or bad habits, our teeth usually shift over time, resulting in gaps, misalignment, and crookedness.What if I haven't worn my retainer in months and my teeth have moved? ›
Ideally, your retainer should still fit even though your teeth have likely moved. If you find that your retainer doesn't fit, or if you've lost it, then your next call should be to your orthodontist in Powell. They can provide you with a new one and make any adjustments that are necessary.Do top or bottom teeth move more? ›
Gum Recession and Bone Loss
Although teeth are strong, as gum tissue, ligaments and bone start to weaken, teeth can shift more easily. Bottom teeth tend to shift earlier than your top teeth do.
If new retainers cannot be made, a 'boil and bite' sports mouthguard can be moulded to the teeth at home and worn (ideally for at least 8 hours per day) as a temporary substitute for a retainer.What if I lost my retainer after 3 years? ›
Give Your Orthodontist a Call
If you've looked for a few hours and still can't find your retainer then you'll need to contact your orthodontist to get a new one. They'll make an appointment with you to either make a new mold of your teeth or to order a copy of your old ones if they still have your impression.
If you've stopped wearing your retainer, the first thing you'll need to do is schedule an appointment with your orthodontist. Don't be embarrassed or feel guilty for letting it slip your mind, even the most perfect patients forget their retainer once in a while.Why do people stop wearing their retainer? ›
There are many reasons why patients stop wearing their retainer. Some simply forget to put it in after they eat or brush their teeth. Sometimes, they forget why they need to wear it, or decide it isn't worth the hassle, and they stop wearing it on purpose.Is it OK to have braces twice? ›
If you've worn braces before, and you're wondering if you can wear them again, the answer is yes! We've helped hundreds of patients to straighten their smile for a second time. If your teeth have shifted after braces, you're not alone.Is it okay to force your retainer on? ›
Never try to force your old retainer in your mouth. This can not only damage your retainer, but damage your smile too. If you have to exert any force to fit your retainer, see your orthodontist first and do not put it in your mouth.Why does my retainer feel tighter some nights? ›
When a retainer feels tight and makes your teeth sore, most of the time it is because you have not been wearing it enough. Even a slight movement that is hard to visually see with your eyes can be enough to make your retainer feel tight.Do I need a permanent retainer after 20 years? ›
While some patients have successfully worn their retainers for up to 20 years, others may need to have them removed or replaced sooner. In most cases, there are no long-term effects to wearing a permanent retainer so long as you are watching for the indications of it needing to be removed and replaced.Do you only wear retainers at night? ›
Most orthodontists advise their patients to wear their retainers for the rest of their lives. However, the retainers only need to be worn at night and skipping a night here and there is no big deal.What if I lost my retainer after 5 years? ›
Get in touch as soon as you can
The first thing you should do if you've lost your retainers is give your orthodontist or dentist a call as soon as you can. To make your new retainers, they may need to book you in for a new set of impressions (moulds of your teeth).
If you are no longer wearing your retainer but are experiencing grinding or clenching at night, your dentist may need to create a mouthguard for you to wear during sleep. The mouthguard will be made of a thin, plastic material similar to your retainer.Why do my teeth feel loose after wearing my retainer? ›
While the retainer shouldn't rip your teeth out of your gums, it could cause them to become loose. That's due to the pressure they put on the teeth.
When a retainer feels tight and makes your teeth sore, most of the time it is because you have not been wearing it enough. Even a slight movement that is hard to visually see with your eyes can be enough to make your retainer feel tight.Will my teeth move in 2 weeks? ›
Person to person based in biology speed at which teeth shift is different person to person. So after a week it's possible to have some small amount of relapse, small spaces or rotations are most common. After a month your bite may start to change overbite and overjet tend to increase and rotations worsen.Do I still need to wear my retainer after 8 years? ›
Because teeth shift naturally and may move because of other factors, you'll have to wear your retainer part-time indefinitely to protect your corrected bite and smile. Some people will have to wear a retainer for at least 10 years. Many orthodontists recommend wearing the retainer part-time for the rest of your life.