When the braces come off, many people wonder is how long do they have to wear a retainer to maintain their newly crafted smile. The true answer to “how long do I have to wear a retainer” is a simple yet educated answer. You’ll have to wear your retainer for the rest of your life to keep your teeth from shifting for a variety of reasons. Your retainer will have a short term and long term plan into how long you’ll need to wear it.
Short Term Schedule:
Our consulting dentist, Dr. Tom McCarthy suggests to all patients to wear a clear retainer as much as you can during the first 12 months after their braces or Invisalign is completed. With the advancement of retainers over the last twenty years, it’s not as much of a daunting task as it used to be. You should always wear your retainer at night, regardless of how long you’re removed from your orthodontic work.
In the first 12 months, wear your retainer as much as possible. You can knock out eight hours a day by wearing it as you sleep. If you commute to work or ride the school bus, you can probably get another hour round trip. Here’s a real tip that we can offer you. If you have a retainer for both the upper and bottom teeth, and you’re worried about it impeding on your speech, wear the top one through the first half of the day, and the bottom one during the second half. It will make communicating much easier. Sporting Smiles trims our clear replacement retainers razor-thin to 1 mm, so talking to coworkers or classmates isn’t a hassle.
The goal short term is “tricking” your teeth’s elastic memory. That means that they will want to shift back to their original position immediately after your orthodontic work is completed. That’s why wearing a retainer is so important to maintaining your smile.
Long Term Schedule:
After the first 12 months, you can relax a bit on wearing your retainer throughout the day. It’s still very important but you’ll want to wear your retainer for about eight hours every 24 hours.
Now that you understand how long you should wear a retainer, you’ll want to find time to fit it into your daily routine. Your teeth are always moving. Think of them as continents on the Earth, sure you don’t notice the land moving under your feet, but if you measure every year, there will be a fraction of a difference. That’s the way teeth work after braces or Invisalign. Your teeth will want to return to their “natural” position, and the best defense against that is wearing a retainer every day.
Tips On A Routine:
The best advice that we can give is to incorporate wearing a retainer into your schedule. You’ll need to wear a retainer for the rest of your life to keep that perfectly crafted and expensive smile you’ve achieved. Wearing a retainer while you sleep is the easiest way to add it to your routine. After brushing your teeth, pop in your retainer and drift to sleep while it does all the work against your teeth shifting. Depending on your sleep schedule your teeth will be secure for an average of eight hours which is 1/3 of the day. Not a bad start in your fight to prevent your teeth from shifting!
Even if you don’t want to wear your retainer every night, we recommend keeping one on hand to help gauge your teeth. If you forget to wear your retainer for a few months and you pop it back on, you’ll be able to feel how much your teeth have shifted during that time frame. If the retainer feels tight on your teeth or if you feel pressure when it’s on, that’s a huge red flag that your teeth have started to shift back. When this happens we recommend wearing your retainer immediately to prevent further teeth shifting. It’s always a great idea to keep a replacement retainer in case the dog gets it or if you lose it. Retainers can be a valuable device when measuring if your teeth are shifting.
Replacing Your Old Retainer:
You’ll have a lifelong relationship with your retainer, so treat it right and give it a deep cleaning two or three times a week. Now that we’ve answered how long do you have to wear a retainer, it’s easy to see how one retainer for life is unrealistic. It’s bound to get gross or potentially crack. That’s where Sporting Smiles comes in with over a decade of experience and over one million customers across the U.S. with replacement retainers. Our custom DIY retainers make receiving a new one affordable. You do it all from the comfort of your home with no need to visit the dentist or deal with absurd costs.