How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer?

How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer?

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! 

Are Traditional Braces More Effective Than Clear Aligners?

Are Traditional Braces More Effective Than Clear Aligners?

Traditional braces have been the smile-straightening go-to for years. However, recent orthodontic technologies have provided patients with a new option: clear aligners.  Clear aligners have gained popularity due to their subtle appearance, but you may be wondering if they are as effective as traditional braces. Our short answer? It depends.  Traditional braces and clear aligners are both proven effective, but one may work better for you, depending on various factors. Let’s dive into some advantages and disadvantages of each to see how they may (or may not!) be the right treatment option for you.

Which Is Best For You: Traditional Braces or Clear Aligners?

Before you start the decision-making process, you should schedule a consultation with your dentist. They will do x-rays and make molds to see what specific orthodontic concerns you might have. After that, you can decide between traditional braces or clear aligners based on three factors: how much dental work you need done, your lifestyle, and your budget.  Below, we’ll break down the differences between each treatment method in terms of those three considerations:

Traditional Braces

Traditional braces are the classic orthodontic method of straightening teeth. The brackets can either be metal or tooth-colored ceramic and are glued to your teeth and strung to an arched wire for a fixed amount of time. Your dentist will bring you back in for monthly visits to make adjustments that will result in a straighter smile. 

What are the Pros of Traditional Braces?

Traditional braces are the most effective option if you need a lot of orthodontic work done. They’re also the most affordable option, with metal brackets being even a little less expensive than ceramic brackets. And one of the most convenient aspects of traditional braces is that there is no chance of losing or misplacing them because they are attached to your teeth. 

What are the Cons of Traditional Braces?

Traditional braces do have some disadvantages in terms of cleaning and appearance. First, they can make brushing and flossing difficult, since there are a bunch of brackets and wires in the way. Second, they’re highly visible. If the invisibility of your treatment is a top priority for you, traditional braces may not be the best option.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners are two plastic trays that fit over your top and bottom teeth. This treatment method involves a series of aligners that are formed differently in order to move your teeth in the correct places over time. The aligners can be removed but should be kept in at all times you’re not eating or brushing your teeth. 

What are the Pros of Clear Aligners?

Clear aligners work great for mild to moderate orthodontic issues. If you wear them properly and for the correct amount of time, you may notice that they work even faster than traditional braces. They also offer a nearly invisible appearance, so your smile can look great even during treatment.

What are the Cons of Clear Aligners?

The biggest disadvantage of clear aligners is that, since they’re easy to take out, they’re easy to leave out and misplace. Having the clear aligners out of your mouth for an extended period of time can dramatically set your progress back. Or, if you lose them completely, you’ll end up paying for another set — which is difficult, especially because clear aligners are a little more expensive than traditional braces.

Which Treatment Option Does West Michigan Dentistry Recommend?

At West Michigan Dentistry, we recommend whichever treatment works best for you. Before deciding a course of action, we always ask our patients these questions about lifestyle and budget. Our main goal is to get your teeth straightened, so whichever way we can accomplish that quickly and conveniently is great.  If you’re looking for the most effective teeth straightening treatment, schedule an appointment with us! Whether you’re interested in traditional braces, or another option better suited to your lifestyle, our knowledgeable staff can work with you to find the best solution.