Do I Need to Wear My Retainer Forever?

First and foremost, congratulations on getting your braces removed! The months or even years in traditional braces or Invisalign has finally paid off with a beautiful new smile. Now it’s time to help keep that smile looking perfect for years to come. One of the most common questions from recent braces graduates is, “Do I need to wear my retainer forever?”

Well, to answer your burning question – the short answer is yes. However, it is not as bad as you are probably imagining it in your head.

Let us explain:

Purpose of a Retainer
In short, a retainer is a simple oral device molded to the shape of your teeth, intended to keep them from moving over time.

There are three common types of retainers:

  • Clear Plastic Retainers: Most convenient and less noticeable but wear down easily
  • Hawley Wire Retainers: Plastic and acrylic with a metal wire across the teeth that looks and feels like braces but are exceptionally durable
  • Fixed Retainers (or Bonded Retainers): Glued to the back of teeth, not noticeable, and lasts for a long time. If you opt for this kind of retainer, you may still be given a removable retainer as a backup. 

Depending on whether you are looking for a more convenient alternative or a less noticeable alternative, your orthodontist is likely to recommend one of these three.

Retainer Wear Requirements Over Time (for Removable Retainers)
Retainer Wear Requirements in Summary: Wear every night for the rest of our life – or as long as you would like to keep your teeth straight! 

Immediately after your braces are removed, it takes time for your teeth to be stabilized in their new position – for your perfect smile. The job of the retainer? To keep your teeth in this new position while the jawbones remodel to support this new arrangement.

 Once your braces are removed, your nightly retainer usage will begin. Why at all if the bone is already formed? While that is the case, over a human lifespan, adult teeth continue to shift forward and inwards. And that can ruin your perfect smile.

By wearing retainers while you sleep, the retainers can prevent these small but cumulative effects of shifting teeth positions over time. Just keep them by your bedside table- it’s a small price to pay for a long-lasting smile!

 Do You Need to Replace Your Retainers Over Time?
Clear plastic retainers tend to wear down more easily – lasting around 6 months to a few years. Permanent retainers are made to be more durable lasting for up to 20 years.

Regardless of which option you choose, should you experience any pain or tightness while wearing your retainers – it could be a sign of your teeth shifting. Wear it more often to prevent further shifting. If the pain continues, seek out your orthodontist to check if you need a new retainer.

 If you have any questions or want to learn more about our retainer replacement options schedule a free consultation with Dr. Bates. We look forward to seeing you soon!