The Importance of Wearing Retainers after Treatment


Getting braces removed is always exciting, but many people do not realize that all of the work is not over yet. Maintaining straight teeth is actually a lengthy commitment that does not end once you no longer have to take regular trips to the orthodontist.In order to avoid losing your newly straightened smile, it is important to keep wearing a retainer for the recommended amount of time. Skipping this important step in the orthodontic process may lead to issues that require you to get braces again.

What Does a Retainer Do?

A retainer is a metal or plastic device that keeps teeth aligned even after a patient no longer needs braces or Invisalign. Retainers are individually molded to fit into each patient’s mouth and provide the pressure and guidance needed to prevent teeth from drifting back into their previous, crooked alignment. When your orthodontist is deciding on a treatment plan for proper tooth and jaw alignment, the treatment plan will also include the type and duration needed for retainers. Some patients need retainers on both the top and bottom teeth, and the length of time the retainer must be worn depends on each individual case. At first, a retainer keeps teeth from shifting back into their places from before a patient wore braces. After the first few years, a retainer can still be worn to prevent the gradual physiologic drift of teeth that happens with age.

What Are the Most Common Types of Retainers?

Though all retainers are used for the same goal of keeping teeth straight, they accomplish this in a few different ways. Depending on a patient’s needs, they may need more than one type of retainer. There are three main types of retainers that orthodontists generally recommend for patients to wear.

  • Bonded Retainers – These retainers are a firm arch of wire that is cemented on the back of a patient’s lower canines. Since bonded retainers are permanent, a patient does not have to worry about losing the retainer or forgetting to wear it. Though they are useful, bonded retainers cannot be used on the upper teeth because they would prevent proper biting techniques.
  • Hawley Retainers – These are the most commonly used retainers for the upper teeth. A Hawley retainer consists of an acrylic piece that is shaped to fit the upper mouth and a wire that surrounds the outer surface of the upper teeth.
  • Essix Retainers- These types of retainers are completely clear. Like Invisalign trays, Essix retainers are designed to fit over all of the teeth, and they are not as noticeable as Hawley retainers.

How Long Do You Need to Wear a Retainer?

There are many different factors that will affect the precise time you need to wear a retainer. In the first three to six months after braces are first removed, most orthodontists recommend that patients wear their retainers at all times besides eating or brushing teeth. Once the teeth start to stabilize into their new position, the patient can normally start wearing their retainer just at night. Doing this over a period of one to three years after braces removal will prevent immediate orthodontic relapse. To keep your teeth straight for the rest of your life, most orthodontists recommend that patients continue to wear a retainer to bed at least two or three nights of each week indefinitely.

What Happens If You Do Not Wear Your Retainer?

Since retainers are designed to keep teeth in a straight position, regularly leaving the retainer out will gradually cause problems. Not wearing a retainer for one to two nights will not cause teeth to immediately spring back into a crowded or crooked mess. However, over time, you will notice that teeth start to become crooked if you do not wear a retainer. If you stopped wearing your retainer right after your braces were removed, you may deal with orthodontic relapse. This happens because it takes a little while for the jaw bones and gums to harden around the new position of the teeth, so teeth will shift back into their former position. If you do not wear your retainer as you age, you may suffer from physiologic drift which happens because teeth naturally move forward in the mouth as people age. Many adults were rigorous about wearing their retainer in the first few years after braces, but then they gradually lose the retainer or no longer bother with wearing it. This normally results in noticeably shifted teeth within about five years.

What Happens If Your Retainer No Longer Fits?

If you do not wear your retainer for a while, it will no longer fit because your teeth have shifted so far away from their previous positions. At first, it may be possible to force the retainer back onto your teeth even after it no longer fits perfectly. If the misalignment is very slight, constant wear of a slightly too tight retainer can push teeth back into place. This is not recommended if the misalignment requires you to force your retainer back into place. Wearing a very ill fitting retainer can cause damage to the surface of the teeth. Therefore, you should contact your orthodontist about being fitted for a new retainer if you can no longer wear it comfortably.

Almost every patient will experience some slight shifting after they get their braces removed, and retainers are important because they prevent uneven tooth settling. Wearing a retainer for an adequate amount of time can keep your teeth from shifting drastically. but it is common for a patient to not realize the need for a retainer until it is too late.

Contact Us to Schedule an Orthodontic Appointment

If you are fortunate enough to live in California, then call Nalchajian Orthodontics to schedule an appointment with either:

• Dr. Nicole Nalchajian
• Dr. Greg Nalchajian

We offer a free consultation at our facility to determine if a patient requires treatment to correct their misaligned teeth. At Nalchajian Orthodontics, patients can have these orthodontic devices applied to their teeth:

• Ceramic braces
• Invisalign aligners for teenagers or adults
• Retainers

Patients can schedule an appointment with us at our Clovis or Fresno offices by making a telephone call or using our website.

Nalchajian Orthodontics
7501 N Fresno St, Suite 105, Fresno, CA 93720
Phone: (559) 432 7100

The Importance of Wearing Retainers after Treatment

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