Many patients are dismayed to learn that after their braces treatment is complete, they will have to wear a retainer. Here’s some information about retainers, and how long they need to be worn.
As we often point out to our patients, everyone is different, and there’s no standard, one-size-fits-all element to any treatment. That’s why we customize treatment plans for each patient, to ensure they get the best treatment and results possible.
This goes for retainers, too. While every orthodontics patient needs to wear a retainer, the time frames for different types of retainer wear differ from person to person. To keep it simple, we’ll lay it out in phases.
Phase 1 - Full-Time Retainer Wear
Immediately after your braces come off, you’ll likely have to wear your retainer full time, all day and all night, and only take it out to to eat, brush, and floss. This phase of retainer wear usually lasts for about 6 months to a year.
Phase 2 - Night Time Retainer Wear
Your orthodontist will evaluate your teeth regularly to determine when you can begin wearing your retainer only at night. This varies from patient to patient as well, and usually takes place for the remaining time in the year that you no longer have to wear your retainer full time. So if you only have to wear your retainer full time for 6 months, then typically, you’ll wear it nights only for another 6 months or so.
Phase 3 - Maintenance
To maintain your straight, even smile, you will have to wear your retainer on a part time basis for the rest of your life. Our patients are often rather dismayed to hear this, but the fact is that your straight smile may not stay that way without continued retainer wear.
Even though the bone grows back around your teeth and anchors them in their new positions after treatment, it’s still possible for them to shift back out of position down the road.
To keep teeth in the right positions, most orthodontists suggest patients wear their retainers about 3 - 5 times a week for life.
While this may be mildly inconvenient, the payoff is a straight, healthy smile for life. It’s definitely worth it!