How Long Should You Wear a Retainer After Orthodontic Treatment?

Orthodontic treatment doesn't end the moment braces are removed. To ensure that your teeth stay in their new position, you need to wear a retainer for a certain period of time. The length of time you need to wear a retainer depends on the type of treatment you had and the type of retainer you have. Right after your braces are removed, you'll need to wear your retainer full time for a few months, giving your bone tissue time to reach the level of your teeth.

During this time, you may have to wear your retainers for up to 22 hours a day, and only take them off to eat and care for your teeth. After four months to a year (depending on your teeth and treatment), you'll likely switch to using it part time and wearing the retainer only at night. Most orthodontists recommend wearing some type of retainer every night, indefinitely, after removing your braces. Some people need to wear a retainer all day, every day for 4 months, while others will be told to wear theirs for 12 months. To extend the life of the retainers, store them in their case when you are not wearing them, avoid exposing them to extreme heat (for example, leaving them in a hot car or drinking hot coffee with them on) and handle them with care.

Without wearing the retainer regularly, you risk having your teeth slipping out of position and all your hard work being invested. There are two main types of retainers: removable Hawley retainers and clear retainers. Detachable Hawley retainers and clear retainers don't last as long as glued retainers, but they can also be used for years. A fixed retainer, also called a permanent retainer or attached retainer, consists of a thin metal wire that attaches to the back of the teeth, on the side of the tongue, so it's not visible when you smile. Your orthodontist installs it and it never comes out unless someone else removes it and dissolves the glue. Adults should wear their retainers for life, but teens may be able to stop using them after about 10 years.

With a permanently attached retainer, it's important to brush your teeth, use dental floss and go under the retaining wire to remove trapped food or other debris. Wearing a retainer is crucial immediately after orthodontic treatment, but wearing it a few nights a week for life will prevent teeth from moving, as well as natural age-related changes. Following your orthodontist's instructions is key to ensure that the retention phase is effective in protecting a healthy bite and smile.

Callie Bawcombe
Callie Bawcombe

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