How long do I need to wear my retainers?

When you think about it, the ability to move teeth within your jaw bones is an amazing and unique thing. While teeth are being moved by braces or Invisalign, the surrounding bone is remodeling to the new position that the teeth are in. It would seem that after this remodeling is complete, or “set”, that this new aligned position of the teeth would be permanent. Most adults that had braces as teens remember being told by their orthodontist to wear retainers to keep their teeth straight, but usually for only several years after their braces were removed. The belief was that when teeth were  aligned and stable, and retainers have been worn for a few years, they would stay this way for life without continued wear of their retainers. Fast forward 5, 10, 20… years later, and many adults notice that their teeth are starting to shift and are crowding again. What happened?

Removable InvisalignAs a profession in general, most orthodontists now agree that to keep teeth straight for life, retention is needed for life (I often joke that just like the rest of our bodies, teeth “wrinkle” as we age!).  I let my patients know that although this may sound daunting, the benefits are great compared to the effort required to keeping their teeth aligned and healthy. Every bite is unique, but most patients only need to wear their retainers at night while they are sleeping, and are free to go to school, play sports, eat, play and go to work without wearing retainers. This is often a huge relief to patients who expect that they will have to wear retainers 24/7 after their braces are removed!

There are several choices of retainers that I match to patient’s lifestyles and preferences. We offer traditional (Hawley) plastic and wire retainers, clear trays (that look like Invisalign trays), and bonded semi-permanent retainers (small wires bonded to the back of the front teeth). At first, we ask that retainers be worn every evening and night for several years. After this, retainers should continue to be worn (for life!), but how often is unique for each person. Most people can keep their teeth aligned wearing them several nights a week, while others may need to wear them every night (these people may prefer bonded retainers). How often depends on several factors, such as how misaligned the teeth were prior to treatment, facial and soft tissue structure, and whether the patient feels the teeth shifting when the retainers are not in place. To ensure that your teeth remain attractive and healthy as long as possible, I will monitor your teeth long after your braces or Invisalign treatment is complete. You will receive guidance as to the ideal retention protocol for your individual needs!

Written by Dr. Dan Rejman
Meadows Orthodontics
Castle Rock, Colorado

Dr. Rejman has been voted a TOP ORTHODONTIST in 5280 magazine in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  He is a Board Certified Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics.