Wearing Your Retainer

You probably know that you’ll have to wear a retainer after your braces are removed. This step is very important to hold your teeth in their new position.

Retainers are individually designed for each patient to prevent the teeth from shifting back to their original positions. They can either be removable or fixed. Removable retainers are made of acrylic and are available in different colors or in a clear, overlay version. Fixed retainers are thin wires that are permanently bonded to the backs of the teeth. They are visible, but much less so than fixed braces.

How long you need to wear your retainer depends on the severity of your case. Because the risk of relapse (the teeth moving back to their previous positions) is very high in the first month after the braces are removed, you will need to wear your retainer full-time for at least this period, and up to two years. If you had gaps between teeth before treatment, the retention period will be longer.

Once the teeth have stabilized, you will be able to wear your retainer less frequently, usually every night. After this, you can wear it a few nights a week, maintaining this habit for life. Otherwise, the teeth can still shift around. If you notice that the retainer starts to fit differently, it is a sign that the teeth are moving and intervention may be necessary. In most cases, simply wearing the retainer more often will remedy the situation, though occasionally, professional help may be needed.

Removable retainers should be taken out during eating, contact sports, and to clean the teeth. The retainer itself should be brushed in tap water with some toothpaste. When not being worn, retainers should always be kept in a box; otherwise, the safest place for your retainer is in your mouth.