How long do you have to wear a retainer?

RetainersPeople ask us a lot of questions, and we’re always happy to answer them.  “Why do I have to wear a retainer?” or “How long do I have to wear a retainer?” are two of the most common questions.  Wearing a retainer is known as the retention phase of your orthodontic treatment.  It’s a very important time, so we’re happy to explain why you should wear your retainer.

When you have braces, your teeth are being realigned around the clock, even while you listen to music, sleep, and spend time with friends.  The retention phase begins immediately when you no longer have braces.  Without your retainer, your teeth will shift; in some cases, they may even shift back to the way they were before you had braces.  However, if you wear your retainer, it will enable your teeth to remain in their new positions.  Unfortunately, wearing your retainer for an hour or two here and there will not do the trick.  It’s very important for you to wear it constantly, except during meals, until you graduate to wearing it just to bed.

There are a few questions that typically arise when we explain this part of the retention phase.  Many people ask what we mean by constantly; the answer to that one is simple: you have to wear the retainer every moment of every day, except when you’re eating.  The second question is how long it will be until that constant wear is reduced to nighttime wear.  The answer to that one is also simple: it depends.  We’ll let you know when you’re ready to graduate from wearing it around the clock to wearing it just at night; typically, that change will come after six to eight months if you’ve been wearing it all the time, as directed.

When you get your retainer, it will feel different, but you will get used to it pretty quickly.  The greatest adjustment may have to do with your speech.  If you feel self-conscious, talk with family members or close friends so you can become more comfortable with speaking while your retainer is in.  There’s another tactic you may want to try: “Dentists advise reading aloud for several minutes each day.”  Before you know it, you’ll feel like yourself again!

Customize your retainer
Did you know that you can design a retainer that reflects your personality?  You can choose from solid colors, custom colors, glitter colors, or neon colors.  It is important to note that most designs and artwork are used on upper retainers; decals are not available for lower retainers.

Clean your retainer
Don’t forget to take your retainer out when you brush and floss your teeth.  Before you put your retainer back in, it requires some special attention.  Brush it every time you brush your teeth.  It’s also important to disinfect it. “Once a day or at least once a week, disinfect the retainer by soaking it in a denture cleanser, such as Efferdent, Polident, or other brand name solutions. Add the cleanser to a cup full of warm — but never hot — water.  Thoroughly rinse the retainer with plain water before placing it back in your mouth.”

One final caution: try not to lose your retainer.  Aside from the replacement cost, you will lose valuable time wearing your retainer while you are waiting for your replacement retainer.  If you have any questions about retainers, braces, or your teeth, please don’t hesitate to contact us.