You’ve finally gotten your braces off — congratulations! Your next step in your tooth-alignment journey is a little plastic, see-through device called a retainer. How does it work, and how should you wear it to keep your teeth ship-shape and perfectly straight? Let’s break it down.
What is a Retainer?
A retainer is a device that — you guessed it — retains the position of your teeth after braces. Though you may not be able to see or feel it, your teeth are always on the move, called a mesial drift. To prevent your teeth from gravitating back to where they were pre-braces, you wear a retainer. The good news? The more you wear it, the less likely your teeth are to shift around.
How Long Should I Wear My Retainer?
When you first have your braces removed, you’ll be wearing your retainers more frequently. In most cases, you will receive a pair of removable retainers that you take out and put back in as necessary. Here, we break down a typical retainer timeline.
3-6 months after braces: You’ll be wearing your retainers the most during this time period — about 22 hours a day. Take your retainer out to eat and brush your teeth. Don’t forget to brush your retainer, too!
The first 2 years after braces: Once your doctor gives you the okay, you’ll only need to wear your retainers at night.
3 years after braces: After three years, you’ll still need to wear your retainers, but not every night. How’s that for some good news? Aim for several nights a week — some patients report that every-other night works best for them.
Do I Really Need to Wear My Retainer?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Going long periods without wearing your retainer can cause your teeth to shift significantly, erasing your braces’ progress. We know braces can be embarrassing, so honor yourself and your hard work by making sure to stay on top of your retainers and wear them as directed.