How Long Do I Need to Wear a Retainer?

by maria | Last Updated: October 5, 2020

Ready to straighten your misaligned crooked teeth using braces and keep it in the desired position forever? Your orthodontist will recommend suitable braces treatments, either the traditional metallic braces or transparent Invisalign, depending on your dental complexity. In traditional braces, you have to wear a system of brackets and archwire to achieve desired teeth straightening results. And Invisalign also achieves similar results but you wear better looking transparent aligners.

The same gradual application of the pressure principle is used in both the treatment to move teeth slowly in a specific direction. You will get straightened teeth in less than a year, but your teeth might shift to their original place. To avoid such relapse orthodontists recommend wearing suitable retainers until shifted teeth become permanent in a new position. Follow retainers wearing instructions as advised by the orthodontist and have a life-long straight smile.

What Are the Types of Retainers?

Depending on your orthodontic procedure and teeth straightening results achieved your orthodontist will recommend suitable retainers. Thankfully, you have multiple types of retainers to choose according to preference and budget. There are mainly three types of retainers to keep your teeth in the right position post braces treatment:

Hawley Retainers

This is the most popular and widely used retainer made plastic/acrylic and metal wire. The removable retainer is adjustable and gives you the flexibility to choose the plastic color. The metal framework wraps around the front teeth and the plastic/acrylic base sits on the roof of your mouth. The wire keeps your teeth in the right position and the base keeps the retainer in the right place. Hawley is relatively cheap and lasts long. Although a great option, the visibility of the metal wire could feel a little awkward. Some users complain about excessive saliva production.

Clear Retainers

Unlike traditional wire retainers, clear retainers are almost invisible and are used after Invisalign treatment. These are made of high-quality transparent plastic or polyurethane. These removable retainers keep your straightened teeth in the right position and are more comfortable. Some popular clear retainers are Essix, Vivera, and Zendura, and these cost a little higher and less durable compared to Hawley.

Fixed Retainers 

A single metallic wire is bonded on the back of your teeth to keep them in the desired position. Since it is fixed you are free of worries of following retainers wearing instruction and of course the fear of misplacing. Maintaining oral hygiene could be challenging with fixed retainers.

Do I Need Retainers After Braces Treatment?

Applying pressure to shift teeth in a specific direction creates empty space. So, when the pressure is removed teeth are bound to regain original position if enough time isn’t allowed to achieve permanency. Retainers keep your straightened teeth in the right position until bones around the teeth harden. Orthodontists recommend using retainers for some months so that results of orthodontic treatment could be maintained.

How Long One Should Wear Retainers?

It can take up to two years for your bones to completely harden and secure your teeth into their new position. Immediately after finishing active orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist will have you wear your retainer for at least 12 hours a night for the first two years. After that, you will likely be able to transition to only wearing your retainer at night while you sleep. Wearing your retainer at night is an easy way to make sure your teeth don’t shift, therefore you should continue to wear your retainer at night indefinitely.

While you may be excited to finally be done with your orthodontic treatment, it is important to remember that you will still need to wear a retainer so your results will last. To preserve your new smile, be sure to wear your retainer as directed by your dentist. After all the money and time dedicated to orthodontic treatment, you do not want to have your teeth shift back from not wearing your retainer.

Maria Giovanisci is an enterprising dentist from London. Maria graduated from the University of Murcia and began her professional career in her own dental clinic before, she decided to embark on a joint project with her two colleagues. Aside from contributing on this blog, she also works in the public health sector at the new Torrevieja Hospital.