After completing your braces treatment and receiving your beautiful smile, your orthodontist will create a retainer for you. This custom appliance is designed to maintain the corrections made by your braces for the rest of your life. Since teeth have a natural inclination to return to their original positions, you will eventually be back in the place you started without regularly wearing your retainer.
You must follow a precise post-treatment schedule to ensure that your braces do not go to waste. Here is a patient’s guide to how long you should wear your retainer for the best post-treatment results.
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The Purpose of a Retainer
Whether your smile was corrected with conventional braces or Invisalign, your teeth are now in new positions. However, teeth have an organic memory that compels them to return to their original positions, creating new gaps or crooked teeth as you age.
The process of teeth moving back to their original configuration slows the further from your treatment you get. However, teeth will always move, even if only gradually, so you will never be able to throw away your retainer without risking the ligaments and bones providing the wiggle room your teeth need to return to being crooked.
Fortunately, the length of time you need to wear your retainer decreases over time as the shifting becomes less pronounced. Here’s a basic schedule for you to follow to optimize your post-treatment care.
Post-Braces Retainer Schedule
Three to Six Months
For the first three to six months after your braces have been removed, you should wear your retainer all the time, at least 22 hours per day. You can remove it to floss, brush, or eat, but otherwise, you should wear it constantly, even while you sleep.
Six Months to Two Years
After the initial period of six months, with your orthodontist’s permission at a follow-up appointment, you can stop wearing your retainer during the day and only put it on to sleep. If you can’t sleep with a retainer in, aim for 8 hours of daytime wear, every day.
Three Years to Forever
After the first two years, you can relax your retainer schedule. You should still wear it a few nights per week, but missing a few nights will not alter your alignment. Your teeth at this point will continue to move back to their original positions, but they will do so at such a gradual pace that you won’t have to obsess over it anymore. Most orthodontists recommend wearing your retainer every other night at this point.
How Long is Forever?
Many post-treatment patients are concerned when the orthodontist informs them that they will have to wear their retainers forever. While true that your teeth will always be in danger of returning to their original alignment, the more years pass, the less you have to worry about it. Wearing your retainer a few nights a week will always be a good practice to ensure that your hard work wearing braces pays off for a lifetime.
Types of Retainers
There are three types of retainers and they slightly alter your post-treatment schedule. The first two function similarly—they are called Hawley and Essix retainers. The Hawley retainer is an acrylic mold with a metal wire running through it. The Essix retainer looks like an Invisalign appliance, made of clear, hard plastic. These retainers must be worn according to the schedule outlined above.
However, for some patients, a permanent retainer is a possible alternative. These retainers consist of a wire glued in an arch to the back of the teeth that were treated with braces. This retainer never comes off and prevents your teeth from moving while saving you the hassle of wearing a removable retainer every night.
Permanent retainers are typically used for the bottom teeth. They can make flossing difficult, however, you can speak to your orthodontist about using threaders to get floss behind the wire.
Choose Reese Orthodontics
If you’re an adult who is considering braces or needs a retainer to preserve your treatment results, you need professional advice on your treatment and payment options. For orthodontic treatments in Charleston, SC, Reese Orthodontics offers the latest technology and treatment plans. Our advanced and comfortable orthodontic treatments can be customized to suit your needs. A consultation with Reese Orthodontics includes scans, a comprehensive exam, and a conversation with the orthodontist to discover which treatment options are right for you.
Schedule an appointment with us today to stay ahead of your oral health and receive the best possible treatment in your area.