How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainers?

March 23, 2018

Getting your braces off or finishing Invisalign is exciting. After all that hard work, you finally have the smile you’ve always wanted! Now, you need to begin a new task–keeping your teeth well-aligned.

That’s where your retainer comes in. Your orthodontist will fit you for a retainer after your braces come off, and you likely have a lot of questions. Luckily, we have answers.

Why Do I Need a Retainer?

Your teeth are straight, so what’s the problem? They won’t stay that way if you don’t wear your retainers! Even if your teeth move into proper alignment, your bone tissue and the ligaments that attach to your teeth are likely lagging behind. Right after your braces come off, you will be wearing your retainers full-time for a few months, which will give the bone tissue time to catch up with your teeth.

The bad news is, you will need to wear your retainer for the rest of your life, and you can blame mesial drift. Mesial drift is a constant process during which your teeth slowly shift as you age. Through this phenomenon, teeth have a tendency to shift back into the alignment they were in before braces or Invisalign. Retainers are a good way to fight against this.

The Stages of Wearing a Removable Retainer

Certain orthodontists prefer to affix permanent retainers to patients’ teeth. As the name would suggest, this type of retainer remains in your mouth at all times. If your orthodontist decides to remove this retainer, you will receive a removable retainer to wear while you sleep.

Removable retainers are far more common than permanent ones. A typical schedule of wearing them looks like this:

The First 3-6 Months: Right after the braces come off, you’ll want to wear your retainers 22 hours every day until your orthodontist clears you to switch to nighttime-only wear.

The First 2 Years: After your orthodontist gives you the OK, you will only need to wear retainers while you sleep.

From the Third Year to the Rest of Your Life: You will still need to hold on to your retainers and wear them regularly, but every other night is fine. There is no need to worry if you skip a night or two.