The day you get your braces off is a big day. You have likely been counting down the days until you no longer need to wear your appliances. Achieving a healthy smile always deserves a celebration!
However, your orthodontic treatment doesn’t end with your braces coming off. Braces treatment is only the beginning of enjoying a lifelong smile. Once your braces are removed, you will need to wear a retainer to help keep your teeth aligned. Patients are sometimes surprised to learn this and will often ask, “How long do I need to wear a retainer?”
The answer to that question depends. There are different rules for retainer wear that change depending on where you are in treatment.
Immediately after having your braces removed, you will need to wear your retainer full-time.
After six weeks of full-time wear, you will transition to only needing your retainer at night.
Finally, once your first year of retainer wear is complete, most patients will only need to wear their retainers for a few nights each week. It is important to note that the retention period is indefinite — there is no magic date out in the future where the retainer is no longer necessary.
What Happens If I Don’t Wear My Retainer?
A retainer is used to keep your teeth set in their new alignment. Without proper retention, your teeth will likely start to drift back towards their initial positions.
Retainers are used to hold your teeth in place while your bone and supporting tissues get acclimated to their new positions. Wearing a retainer full-time for the first six weeks of retention can help make sure your tissues and bone stay in the proper place.
Teeth naturally move and change position as we age, whether you have had orthodontic treatment or not. If you want to maintain your new ideal alignment, you will need to wear a retainer indefinitely to prevent your teeth from moving out of alignment. Not wearing a retainer puts you at risk of relapse and needing additional treatment.
Different Type of Retainers
There are three types of retainers that may be used in your treatment. Each option has its own unique application. Our orthodontists at GSO will recommend the best treatment option for you based on where you are in your treatment phase.
Removable retainers like the traditional plastic and wire Hawley model or the Invisalign-style Essix retainer can be used to keep your teeth straight. These retainers can quickly be taken out of your mouth to eat. With proper care, these removable retainers can last two to three years.
Fixed retainers are a bit different. A fixed retainer is attached to the front lowers and bonded in place. Our orthodontic team generally recommends fixed retainers for patients who experienced significant lower teeth crowding before starting their braces treatment. Fixed retainers stay in place for at least two years after braces removal.
If the patient’s dentist doesn’t note any problems with tartar buildup, then we generally recommend that the fixed retainer stays in place permanently. If your fixed retainer is removed, then you will be fitted for a removable retainer.
An Award-Winning Alignment Experience Near You
Relapse is a major concern for anyone who has worn braces. Regularly wearing your retainer is only one part of your treatment. Depending on where you are in your retention phase, you will need to adhere to different treatment guidelines.
Since 2016, people across Georgia have trusted the Georgia School of Orthodontics with their smiles. If you have any questions about retainers, including how long do you have to wear a retainer after braces, give us a call at (770)-749-7192 or contact us online.