How Long Do I Have to Wear My Retainer? - How Long Do I Have to Wear My Retainer? -

How Long Do I Have to Wear My Retainer?

When people are able to finally get their braces off, it is a joyous occasion. Sadly, that joy is often cut short when they realize that they are trading in one mouth of metal for another. Retainers are something that are necessary to wear when braces are removed, but how long must they stay in? In this article, we will answer the question, “how long do I have to wear my retainer?”

What Braces Do

Braces are something that dentists or orthodontists use in order to correct the placement and shape of the teeth. Teeth can erupt in the wrong places at birth or may shift over time, necessitating the use of braces. They can correct not only crooked teeth but a variety of other conditions. These include:

  • Bad bite, also known as a malocclusion
  • Protruding teeth
  • Misaligned jaws
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Accidents with the mouth

Malocclusions can be caused by birth or by accident and aging. They can also be caused by premature tooth loss, sucking your thumb as a child or even genetics.

If these conditions are not treated, they can create further issues that can make growth complicated and could cause any of these problems in the future:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Tooth loss and decay
  • Gum disease
  • Generally poor oral health

Braces can be made out of plastic, ceramic, metal or a combination of the aforementioned materials. The final kind of material that is used is often affiliated with how much the teeth have moved.

When Braces Are Removed

When braces are removed, people usually feel a sense of relief. They love their new smile, but what they might not realize until the end stages of having braces is that they are going to need a retainer to keep that smile in place once the braces come off. A retainer is something that is custom made and helps keep the teeth in place once your braces have come off.

While this apparatus is removable, these newly set teeth need to have time to get set into the jawbone and soft tissue that they sit inside of. Wearing a retainer during the night and in between times that you eat can help your teeth hold their positions instead of allowing them to shift over time. This would, of course, waste the money spent and the effort put forth into the braces to begin with.

Types of Retainers

There are two main kinds of retainers that are used. These are fixed retainers and removable retainers. Removable retainers can easily slide out of the mouth when you are brushing your teeth or eating. These kinds of retainers should be worn all of the time for a minimum of one year after the braces have come off.  The orthodontist will decide how long you need to wear the retainer based on how the treatment was provided.

After you have worn the retainer for that period of time, if there is no movement that can be detected, the orthodontist will decide what to do. They may recommend that you only wear the retainer at night. Some people may have to wear it at night for an indefinite period of time. Fixed retainers are usually kept there for years on end and can even be worn for decades.

Out of these two kinds of retainers, there are three different types for you to choose to wear:

Invisible retainers. These are made using clear plastic that gives the appearance that you are not wearing anything.

Hawley retainers. These are the most common types of retainers. These stick to the shape of your mouth and are kept in place by a wire. This wire wraps around your teeth.

Fixed retainers. These retainers are held in place by cement to the back of your teeth.

Timeline of Retainers

For the first three to six months after having your braces removed, you will likely be wearing your retainers for around 22 hours a day. After your orthodontist feels comfortable with the idea that your teeth are stable, they will allow you to wear them only at night. You can continue to wear your retainers each night until you have worn them for at least a year. Once the year mark has passed, you can wear them every other night indefinitely.

If your retainers ever feel too tight, you can wear them every night until the retainers change into a more comfortable position. While you age, your teeth will shift forward naturally and can have an effect on your smile over time. Wearing your retainers regularly can help stop this from happening so that your teeth and smile looks great for years to come.

Retainer Maintenance

It is imperative that you take care of your retainers as directed by your orthodontist. With the right level of care, you can keep your retainers in great condition and help them to last as long as they can. You can soak them in denture cleaning tablets or a blend of water and vinegar. It is recommended that you bring your retainers with you when you go in for your six-month visits. Your orthodontist will be able to inspect and clean them properly for you at these visits.

If you have fixed retainers, you need to be sure that you are having regular checkups with your orthodontist or dentist as directed. They will check them for plaque or tartar build-up and clean them properly. It is important that you are getting this done as there are some places in the retainer that you will not be able to clean on your own.


In this article, we examined what braces are, the types of retainers that are worn after braces and more. We also answered the question “how long do I have to wear my retainer?” Are you currently wearing a retainer? Are you getting your braces off soon and find that you have some questions? Talk to us in the comments section below.

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