How long do I have to wear my retainer after braces?

Congratulations, you’ve finished your braces or Invisalign® treatment! Now your orthodontist hands you a retainer… Your first question is probably, “How long do I have to wear a retainer?!” It’s a very valid question. We know you’re itching to be done with your orthodontic treatment! We promise you’ll thank yourself in the future for wearing your retainer as instructed.

Here’s everything you need to know about the final phase of your treatment.

First things first: How long do you have to wear retainers?

When you first get your braces removed or your Invisalign treatment is completed, you’ll be instructed to wear your retainer for 24 hours, through the day and night.

Your orthodontist will tell you when you can reduce your wear to nights only. This can vary person to person, because everyone’s case is different. For patients who had severe misalignments, you may need to wear your retainer consistently for 6 months or so to prevent orthodontic relapse.

Some people may need to wear their retainer 24 hours a day for up to 4 months, while other people may be advised to wear theirs full-time for 8 to 10 months.

Can I wear my retainer only at night?

After you’ve been wearing your retainer consistently for a period of time, yes you’ll be able to reduce your wear to nights only! It’s important that when you first begin your retention phase, you’re wearing your retainer 24 hours a day (or as instructed by your orthodontist).

During the first few months of your retention phase, your teeth are more likely to relapse, or shift back to their pre-treatment position. Once your teeth are settled in their new beautiful alignment, you won’t be at such a high risk of relapse. This is when you can start wearing your retainer nights only.

How often should I wear my retainer?

How often you wear a retainer can differ for each person’s case. For at least the first 4 months, it’s likely that your orthodontist will recommend you wear it day and night. After your teeth are settled, you should continue to wear your retainer at night for a lifetime.

You’ve put time, money and energy into your beautiful new smile! Now it’s up to you to retain your smile and keep it in its best shape. Wearing your retainer as instructed will ensure that your smile remains in perfect form.

Will my teeth shift without a retainer for a week?

Maybe you went on vacation for a week and forgot your retainer. Uh oh! This is unfortunate—but it’s not the end of the world.

The first three months are critical, and the teeth are most likely to shift during this stage. During this time, a week without your retainer may cause some minor shifting. Your retainer may feel a bit tighter on your teeth when you place it back in again.

Throughout the rest of your retention phase, it’s still possible for your teeth to shift a bit if you go without wearing your retainer for a week. Your retainer is there to help support your teeth in their new position.

If you notice your retainer is difficult to put back in your mouth, do not force it! This can damage your beautiful smile and your retainer. Never try to force an appliance back in your mouth. Please give us a call if you experience this!

How long do clear retainers last?

Clear Essix retainers (very similar to Invisalign) are made to last about 5 years before a replacement is necessary. Hawley acrylic retainers (ones with an acrylic center plate and a wire structure) can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years.

However, it all depends on how well you take care of your retainer. Your retainer can last a decade if you take care of it properly! Otherwise if you neglect your retainer, you might be purchasing a replacement sooner than later.

Here’s how you can keep your retainer in its best shape to prolong its lifetime:

  1. Clean your retainer regularly—once a day when you’re wearing it for 24 hours
  2. Keep your retainer in its case when it’s not in your mouth
  3. Removing your retainer to eat food and drink beverages
  4. Don’t use hot water when cleaning or soaking your retainer
  5. Don’t use cleaning chemicals that aren’t approved for a retainer

Still have questions about wearing your retainer?

We’re here to answer your questions! Our team is here to help guide you through your treatment process, from your initial complimentary exam, throughout your retention phase.

Your orthodontist will explain everything you need to know about wearing your retainer and caring for your retainer when you’re nearing the end of your treatment.

We are Northwest Florida’s leading orthodontist and most experienced Invisalign provider. We invite you to come experience the difference when you choose a team of experienced orthodontists who genuinely care about you!

Come visit us at any of our 8 convenient locations by requesting your complimentary exam!