Congratulations! You just finished your last day of wearing braces, and your smile has never looked so flawless. 

But, unfortunately, the process isn’t quite over. You’ve put in the hard work of dealing with braces to straighten your teeth, and now you’ll have to wear a retainer to keep them that way. For how long, you ask? Let’s take a look!

What Are Retainers, and What Do They Do?

Retainers are orthodontic devices that are custom-made to fit your teeth and keep them straight after you’ve had braces. Once your braces are removed, your teeth are sensitive to moving around — which puts your straight smile, as well as the time and money you’ve already invested, at risk. It’s your retainer’s job to ensure your smile remains straight and that your orthodontic work brings a lifetime of reward. 

2 Types of Retainers

There are two types of retainers available. Your dentists may recommend one, the other, or a combination of both, depending on your unique orthodontic needs. 

Removable retainers are made with clear plastic, or with wires and resin. They usually fit over the top of your teeth. Although these retainers should be worn as much as possible, they are able to be removed for activities like eating, drinking, and brushing. 

Permanent retainers are usually bonded to the inside of your bottom teeth, and they aren’t able to be removed without a visit to the dentist. Because of this, they’re impossible to misplace, and therefore often more effective than removable retainers. 

How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer? 

And now, what you’ve been waiting for — how long do you actually need to wear this thing? Well, the answer is that it depends on your dentist’s recommendation. Everyone’s orthodontic needs are different, and therefore everyone requires different care. 

In most cases, however, you wear your retainer for different amounts of time, depending on which of these three stages you’re in. 

  • The first 6 months – You should wear your retainers all the time, at least 22 hours per day. You should only remove them to eat, drink, or brush your teeth. 
  • The next 1 ½ years – You can start to wear your retainers only while you sleep at night. 
  • The third year and beyond – You can start to wear your retainers less frequently at night. It’s not a big deal if you miss a night or two, but should aim for at least four nights per week. 

Do I Really Need to Wear My Retainer Forever? 

Ideally, your dentist would like you to wear your retainer 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year, forever — but we know that’s not always convenient or feasible. 

After you’ve finished the first 2-3 years of regularly wearing your retainers, it’s ultimately up to you how long you’d like to continue. While most dentists recommend you wear them every few nights for the rest of your life, it’s your decision to make. Just remember that the more you wear it, the better your straight smile will be maintained, and the more you’ll get out of your orthodontic investment. 

If you’ve recently had your braces removed and received a retainer, do your best to wear it as regularly as possible! But on the chance you forget or it gets a little beaten up, the team at West Michigan Dentistry can help. Schedule an appointment with us to get a new retainer that fits your teeth and keeps your beautiful smile straight!