Here’s everything you need to know about the nature of a retainer, why you have to wear your retainer after braces, and what to do if you forget to wear it.
What is a retainer for teeth?
A retainer for teeth has the crucial responsibility of holding the smile in its final position, after active orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign is complete. We provide both permanent (bonded wires behind the teeth) and removable retainers for our patients.
Permanent, or fixed, retainers are cemented to the teeth and work 24/7 to support your new smile. Removable retainers come in Essix clear retainers (similar to Invisalign) or Hawley retainers that have an acrylic plate and metal wires. These retainers can be removed as needed, according to your orthodontist’s instructions.
Why it’s essential to wear your retainer as instructed
Teeth are naturally anchored into the jaw bone via the teeth roots. When you apply pressure to the teeth (through braces or clear aligner treatment), the roots of the teeth are moved to create a new, healthy alignment.
During orthodontic treatment, your jaw bone softens to allow for orthodontic movement. Once your braces are removed or your Invisalign is complete and your teeth are done moving, your jaw bone will need to regenerate and solidify around the roots of your teeth in their new position.
Without the support of your retainer, your teeth have a tendency to migrate back to their original, pre-treatment position. This is called “orthodontic relapse” – and we want to avoid it at all costs.
A retainer supports your jaw bones and teeth as your new smile stabilizes and the bone re-hardens, which prevents orthodontic relapse. Otherwise, all of the hard work you put into your treatment is lost and you’ll have the same smile you came to our office with in the first place!
How long do you have to wear a retainer?
As soon as you begin the retention phase, you may be wondering, “Do I have to wear a retainer forever? When can I stop wearing my retainer?” It’s only natural to ask questions!
At the beginning of your retention phase, you’ll be instructed to wear your retainer at night for one year. That means every night, try to wear your retainer as often as possible. This is how we achieve and maintain the best results!
After about a year, you will be able to reduce your wear to every other night. Because teeth have a tendency to shift throughout life, it’s important that you wear your retainer at night, indefinitely (or as long as you want them straight).
What happens if I’m not wearing my retainer for a month?
Not wearing your retainer will cause your teeth to shift back to their original positions.
The shift will be a slow migration, so you don’t necessarily have to worry about immediate relapse after a few days or a week of forgetting to wear your retainer. If you stop wearing your retainer for a whole month, you may find that your teeth have shifted and your retainer doesn’t quite fit when you try to place it back in. To this, we say never force a retainer in your mouth. This could damage your retainer – and your smile.
If you forget to wear your retainer for a month, or you go on vacation for a month and forget your retainer behind, we encourage you to reach out to us to schedule an appointment when you’re back. If your retainer still fits well in your mouth (which may be the case if you’ve been in the retention phase for a while) then pop it back in and continue your retention treatment.
If your retainer doesn’t fit as it used to or it feels too tight on your teeth, do not force it in place. Instead, simply contact our friendly team at GO Orthodontics and let us know that you may need a replacement retainer! Please bring your old retainer with you to the appointment.
If you weren’t previously one of our patients, we can still create a new retainer for you. We will discuss retainer costs when you visit us or reach out to us.
Still have questions about wearing your retainer after braces or Invisalign?
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! We love hearing from you.
Our team is here to provide you with the information you need to make the best decision for you or your child’s smile. We’ll help you GO through life smiling with confidence!
Take the first step to achieve the smile you’ve always wanted by requesting your complimentary consultation with us in Oxford, Saltillo, Southaven or Corinth (Mississippi) or Collierville near Memphis (Tennessee).