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Our patients who are undergoing orthodontic treatment have one common question.  How long do I need to wear my retainer? The easy answer is that you need to wear your retainer for as long as you want straight teeth. Teeth that are not held in place will continue to shift, wasting all that time that you spent wearing braces.

How Retainers Work

Once you’ve worn braces or had the Invisalign® treatment, you’ll need to wear a retainer to maintain that beautiful smile. It takes about a year for teeth to settle into their new position. As the bone isn’t fully formed around the new position, a retainer is used to train the teeth to stay in that new position while this process occurs.

Types of Retainers Available

The most popular types of retainers include:

Bonded (or Permanent) Retainers

These are made up of a wire that lines the back of your teeth and wires that secure it in place. They must be maintained daily with flossing and brushing.

Hawley Retainers

These well-known retainers have a metal wire that wraps around a series of teeth to keep them in place. They are easier to adjust than bonded retainers.

Essix Retainers

These clear snap-on retainers fit right over your teeth. It’s important to clean them after each wear.

No matter which retainer you’re wearing, it’s important to watch for signs of wear. Be on the lookout for cracking, bending, or loosening. If it loses its shape, it will become ineffective.

Wearing Your Retainer

If you have a bonded retainer, it will remain in your mouth 24/7.  For removable retainers in the initial months, probably three to six months, you should be wearing your retainer up for 22 hours a day. You can take it out during meals.

Eventually, you will get to a point where you can wear them only overnight. Once you’ve reached this stage, wear the retainer each night for at least a year. Then you can wear your retainer every other night.

Shifting happens differently for everyone, so make sure you consult with your Cumberland Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics provider about the length of wear. If your retainers feel tight, this may signal that your teeth are shifting, and you should wear them more often.

Taking Care of Your Retainer

Make sure that you maintain your retainer with regular cleaning to make it last. Your orthodontist can help you with a full inspection and cleaning if you bring it in for checkups. When cleaning your retainer at home, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and warm water to clean off plaque or debris. Diluted denture cleaner is good for deep cleans. Bonded retainers can be cleaned with a water pick and floss.

The Cumberland Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics Team is Here to Help!

While you’re getting used to your retainers, you will probably have questions. We are here to answer them and provide guidance for maintenance. Achieving a beautiful smile can be exciting, but you’ll have to be prepared to wear your retainer for the rest of your life to maintain it.

Maintain your retainer and look for wear and tear over time. If it shows signs of wear or feels uncomfortable, make an appointment with Cumberland Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics.


Author: Michael Seelig, DMD – Orthodontist

Dr. Mike was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, where he started his undergrad at Washington University. After his first year, he transferred to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN and graduated with a B.A. in Neuroscience. Shortly after, he went to University of Louisville School of Dentistry and graduated in May 2017 with magna cum laude honors. Then, Dr. Mike received a Certificate in Orthodontics and Master’s of Oral Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, where he was also awarded the Dr. Jerome and Mrs. Joy Fein Endowed Scholarship “in recognition of excellence in the Orthodontics Residency Program.”

You can read his full bio here. Dr. Mike currently works at our Murfreesboro and Smyrna orthodontic clinics. Feel free to schedule your free orthodontic consultation online today!

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