If you’ve just finished braces or Invisalign, you may be thinking, “I’ve worked hard on achieving my beautiful smile…Am I done now?” The truth is that retainers play an essential role in orthodontic treatment. If retainers are not worn faithfully after orthodontics, teeth will quickly shift back toward their original position.
Why are retainers necessary?
For the first six months, teeth are extremely unstable because the bone and gums need time to readjust to the new position of the teeth. After a couple of years of retainer wear, teeth become more stable, but they will still shift, just at a slower rate than before.
How long do I need to wear my retainers?
When asked this question, I tell my patients that retainers need to be worn for as long as they want to keep their teeth straight.
It used to be common practice for orthodontists to tell patients to wear their retainers until they were done growing or went to college. However, long-term research and clinical experience show that, like everything else in our bodies, teeth continue to shift with age. In fact, this is especially true for the bottom front ones.
How often do I need to wear my retainers?
For the first 6 months, retainers need to be worn either full time or 12 hours per day depending on the design of the retainers. After that, they need to be worn at night time.
There are different options for retainers. For the upper arch, I typically like the “Invisible retainer” because it can be worn 12 hours for the first 6 months, and then at night only. Because it’s needed no more than 12 hours per day, there is less interference with speech and lifestyle than a retainer that needs to be worn full time.
For the lower arch I like either the Invisible retainer or the traditional Hawley retainer which need to be worn full-time for the first 6 months and then only at night. Since the retainer is on the lower arch, it does not interfere with esthetics or speech as much as the upper retainer may.
How long will my retainer last?
The typical lifespan of a retainer varies. If you clench or grind your teeth, or if you wear the retainer full time, it will not last as long. You can expect a retainer to last several years but not forever.
What should I do about my wisdom teeth?
Research shows that wisdom teeth have no effect on teeth crowding. So whether you have your wisdom teeth removed or not should not affect your retainer use. In other words, what’s important in terms of keeping your teeth straight is wearing your retainers. However, there are
So, to answer your question, yes, retainers are for life. Keep your eye out for our next blog on “Lifetime Retainers.”