You have worked hard to get your once crooked teeth into their best possible position. However, orthodontic treatment doesn’t end when the braces come off your teeth.
To prevent your straight teeth from moving and undoing all of your hard work, you will need to wear a retainer.
Worn faithfully, retainers allow teeth to adapt to their new position so that you can enjoy your beautiful, healthy teeth long after those braces have been removed.
What are Retainers?
A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that is perfectly molded to provide structure and stability for your newly aligned teeth. Wearing a retainer in the weeks and months following the removal of your braces will help keep your teeth in place and prevent teeth from moving back to their original, crooked positions.
There are two types of retainers: fixed and removable. Fixed retainers, like braces, are permanently attached to ensure that your straight teeth don’t move.
Removable retainers, on the other hand, are made of clear plastic, while others are formed from acrylic with metal wires. These appliances can be removed to eat, drink and brush — making them a popular option for dental retention.
How Long Can You Go Without Wearing Your Retainer?
Unfortunately, your teeth have a natural tendency to shift to their original position almost immediately following the removal of braces. Since a retainer’s job is to hold the teeth in place, it is never a good idea to go more than a day or two without wearing it.
How long can you go without wearing your retainer? It depends! The appropriate length of time necessary to wear a retainer will vary from patient to patient.
To maintain long-standing results, follow your dentist’s instructions. In most cases, patients are advised to wear retainers full time for the first few months to a year when the teeth and bone are still adjusting to their new positions.
After that time, it is usually recommended that the retainer is worn at nighttime indefinitely, or at least a few times a week, to prevent unwanted movement of the teeth.
What Happens If You Don’t Wear Your Retainer for a Week?
If you forget to wear your retainer for a day or two — don’t panic! As mentioned above, a couple days without your removable retainer probably won’t cause any significant problems, as long as you resume wearing it as prescribed.
When failing to wear your retainer for a week or more, however, you can expect your teeth to begin drifting out of place. Unfortunately, this will reverse all of the effort you devoted to straightening your teeth.
Even the smallest shift in your teeth can affect how a retainer fits in your mouth. If it begins to feel uncomfortable or difficult to place on your teeth, schedule a visit with your dentist right away. This is a sign that too much time has passed without wearing a retainer.
If you have asked the following questions, you’re not alone! Be sure to read the below section for answers:
When can I stop wearing my retainer?
Your dentist will provide a general timeline for when you can stop wearing a retainer. For some patients, retainers will need to be worn day and night for one year. After 12 months have passed and the teeth have stabilized, most patients can transition to nighttime-only wear.
How long and often you need to wear your retainer will ultimately depend on your dental needs. Remember, you have put so much time, effort and money into straightening your teeth with braces. Keep them looking and feeling great for a lifetime by getting into the habit of wearing your retainer now.
Can I wear my retainer after not wearing it for months?
Typically, the longer you go without wearing a retainer, the more likely it is that your teeth and bite will go back to the way they were before braces. In this case, your retainer will not fit properly on your teeth.
Never force your retainer into place, as this can damage your teeth and the retainer. Instead, schedule a visit with your dentist.
If the teeth haven’t moved much, you may be able to have a new retainer made. Significant tooth movement, however, could require you to restart treatment with braces.
What happens if I don’t wear my retainer for six months?
With your bracket and wires gone for good, you may be tempted to leave your retainer in its case rather than on your teeth. However, if you go several months without wearing your retainer, you will likely reverse all of the amazing progress you made while wearing braces.
In fact, without the support of your braces, your teeth are especially prone to shifting during the first year when teeth and gums are still acclimating to their new placement. Retention is vital to hold teeth in place and avoid orthodontic relapse.
Braces are only the first step in your journey to straighter, more beautiful teeth. A retainer plays a critical role in maintaining the position and health of your teeth long after the wires and brackets have been removed.
Will you need to wear your retainer forever? Maybe. Just as every patient’s teeth are unique, each individual’s retention plan will look different, as well. What we do know is that retainers are the best way to preserve the beautiful changes made by your braces for many years to come!
Contribute By McLean DDS.