Regardless of whether you had traditional braces or Invisalign® treatment, retainers are the next step to keep your teeth straight. People frequently ask us how long they need to wear their retainer after having orthodontic treatment. Although there are many factors that may influence how long someone needs to wear their retainer, the best recommendation we can make is that you should wear your retainers for as long as you want to keep your teeth straight. Without consistent retainer wear, you risk your teeth relapsing or returning to their pre-orthodontic position. A simple way to understand why this happens it to think of your teeth as having a memory of their original position. A retainer helps train your teeth to stay in their new ideal position.
Keeping your teeth straight
The first 2 to 6 months after completing orthodontic treatment is the most crucial time where teeth can relapse. You will be instructed to wear your retainers full time at this point. This means that you should aim to wear your retainers 22 hours/day. When Dr. Pulver feels confident that you are achieving stability, she will have you transition to nighttime only wear. You should continue wearing your retainer every night for about a year. After a year has passed, you should continue to wear your retainer at least every other night for the rest of your life.
Types of retainers
Bonded Retainers: Bonded retainers are made by fitting a wire along the back of your teeth which is then bonded with tooth-colored composite material. Bonded retainers can be made for both the upper or lower teeth but may not be recommended for both depending on your bite. These retainers require daily maintenance and need to be flossed and brushed around daily. Bonded retainers can last anywhere from 2-5+ years depending on how well they are cared for.
Clear Retainers: Like their name implies, clear retainers are clear snap on retainers that fit over your teeth. They are an esthetically-pleasing option for patients who want to avoid wearing a retainer with a visible wire. Typically, clear retainers last 2-3 years.
Hawley Retainers: These are probably the most well-known type of retainers. Although there are many different designs, most have a metal wire that wraps around a series of teeth in order to keep them held securely in place. Hawley retainers require adjustment periodically. Typically, they need to be replaced every 5-8 years.
Regardless of the type of retainer that you have, you should be diligent to look out for signs of wear and tear like cracking, bending, or loosening. If your retainer begins to lose its shape or does not fit properly, then it can no longer effectively keep your teeth straight. At this point, it might be time to have a new one made.
Replacing your retainer
Removable Retainers Can Be Misplaced: Unfortunately, removable retainers can sometimes get misplaced. To prevent this, make sure you place them in their case every time you take them out. Do not set them in a napkin or tissue when you take them out to eat. Doing so makes it easy to accidentally throw them out. You should also keep your retainer away from pets, since they love their scent and to chew on them.
Consider a Spare Set: If you want to avoid the panic that comes with losing your retainer, it might be a good idea to invest in a spare set when you finish orthodontic treatment. We happily make a second set of retainers at a reasonable price, ensuring that you have another set on hand if you lose or misplace a set.
What to Do if You Have Indeed Lost Your Retainer: If you do lose your retainer and you do not have a spare, do not panic. Your teeth will not move back to their pre-treatment position instantly. However, they will move back over time changing your smile. Contact Parkway Orthodontics right away so you can have a replacement retainer made immediately.