How Long Do You Have to Wear a Retainer After Braces? (2024 Update)

So, you’ve just gotten your braces off—congratulations! That sensation of running your tongue over smooth teeth is remarkably satisfying, isn’t it? However, your orthodontist has now handed you a retainer and advised that you need to wear it to maintain your teeth’s alignment. Understandably, you might be wondering, how long do you really need to wear this essential device? The reality is, retaining your newly aligned smile necessitates some ongoing commitment.

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?

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?”

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.

How Often Should You Wear A Retainer After Braces? 

After your braces come off, your orthodontist will likely ask you to wear a removable retainer for at least 12 months. During the first 4-6 months, aim to wear it full-time. 

Typically, this means around 22 hours per day. Yes, even when you’re sleeping! The commitment may sound intense, but it’s vital for maintaining that perfect smile you worked so hard for. 

Here’s a pro tip: Once you get used to it, incorporating wearing a retainer into your nightly routine becomes second nature. Almost all orthodontists agree – wearing your retainer each night, indefinitely, ensures your teeth stay in their new position. 

Importantly, if you don’t follow the guidelines, your teeth could shift back. This might mean needing braces again down the road. So, don’t skip those nightly retainers after the main post-braces period! 

Lastly, remember that your retainer won’t last forever. Over time, it may need to be replaced. Keeping up with your orthodontist’s instructions for wear and care ensures you maximize its effectiveness.


Different Type of Retainers

There are three types of retainers that may be used in your treatment. Each option has its own unique application. Dr. Lazzara 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. Dr. Lazzara 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. 

Wearing a retainer after braces is essential for preserving your beautiful smile and ensuring long-term alignment. By following your orthodontist’s instructions and seeking timely professional advice, you can maintain the incredible results of your orthodontic journey. Remember, a committed retainer regimen is the key to keeping your teeth perfectly aligned for years to come!

For over 20 years, people across Ponte Vedra/Nocatee & Jacksonville Beach have trusted Dr. Lazzara 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 (904) 270-8750 or contact us online.

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