How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer?

March 26, 2018

Finishing up your Invisalign or braces treatment is an exciting accomplishment. After a lot of dedication, you have a perfectly aligned smile! But there are steps you need to go through in order to keep it that way.

Your orthodontist has likely provided you with a retainer. It may be a bit of a let-down to think you’re done with treatment, only to find you need to wear another appliance. But there’s no need to worry! Retainers aren’t such a big deal, and as time goes on, you won’t need to wear them as often.

Why Do I Need a Retainer?

Your orthodontist will work with you to devise a plan for wearing your retainers. Now that your teeth have settled into their new positions, the bones and ligaments that hold them in place will need to play catch-up for a few months. That’s why for the first 3-6 months, you will need to wear them 22 out of 24 hours per day.

Once your bones and ligaments adjust to your new smile, you should be able to switch to wearing your retainers just while you sleep. However, the bad news is that for the rest of your life, your teeth will be undergoing a process called mesial drift. This means that as you age, your teeth will constantly move. Your teeth will always be headed for their original position from before your treatment. Retainers are the best way to fight against mesial drift.

The Stages of Wearing a Removable Retainer

Some orthodontists prefer to affix a permanent retainer behind your teeth. As the name would imply, your permanent retainer can only be removed by an orthodontist. If your retainer falls out, or your orthodontist removes it, you will be given a removable retainer to wear while you sleep.

The majority of orthodontists will opt for removable retainers that you will wear on this approximate schedule:

The First 3-6 Months: This is the time when your bone tissue and ligaments have not yet grown in around your new smile. To prevent your teeth from shifting, you will need to wear your retainer 22 hours out of the day.

The First 2 Years: After your initial time of full-time wear, you will be able to start wearing your retainers during sleep only.

From the Third Year to the Rest of Your Life: Now, you can wear your retainers a little bit less. Skipping an occasional night or two is no big deal. A good rule of thumb is to aim to wear them every other night.