Finishing your orthodontic treatment is a joyous day! Those months or years of patience and hard work have finally paid off and you’ve achieved a beautiful smile you’ve always dreamed of. Before you get too excited about your new smile, it’s important to understand what happens to your teeth next: wearing a retainer.
Why Do I Need to Wear a Retainer?
When you’re wearing braces or Invisalign, the orthodontic treatment holds your teeth in place as they shift through your jaw. In order for your teeth to move through your jaw, your bone becomes soft. Once you reach your final resting position, it will take a while for your bone to harden up and stabilize the teeth. During the first 12 months after orthodontic treatment, it’s important to wear your retainer every night because this is when the most shifting will happen. After a year, it’s important to wear a retainer to prevent your teeth from slowly shifting.
Types of Retainers
There are several types of retainers. We will help you decide which is right for you.
Removable Hawley Wire Retainer – This classic retainer lasts a long time and can easily be repaired or tightened.
Removable Clear Plastic Retainers – Similar to Invisalign aligners, these clear retainers are less expensive than Hawley wire retainers but need more often replacement. They also protect against grinding.
Bonded Permanent Retainer – These types of retainers are permanently bonded in your mouth. They can last for years but make flossing and brushing difficult and require extra care to not eat certain hard foods otherwise it can break.
How Often Do I Wear My Retainer?
Although every patient has different guidelines, directly after getting your braces off, we will recommend wearing your retainer 12 to 24 hours per day for the first month or two. Some patients may require longer wear. Then you will wear your retainer every night for at least the first year after getting your braces off. Once your bone stabilizes, we will recommend wearing your retainer 3 to 4 nights per week for the rest of your life to maintain your bite.
Do I Have to Wear a Retainer for the Rest of My Life?
Yes! Unless you want your teeth to slowly shift out of their new position, you must wear your retainer for the rest of your life. If you think about it, wearing it a few nights per week is much better than wearing braces for another year or two 10 years from now. It might feel inconvenient but it’s absolutely necessary to maintain your smile.