Why It’s Important to Wear Your Retainer After Braces

It seems like a simple enough question: What should I do with my retainer after braces? After all, once you get your braces off, you no longer need to wear it. Right? If you want to keep that straight smile and have healthy teeth, it turns out it’s important to keep the retainer on even when braces are off.

If you don’t wear a retainer, you might actually undo years of work your braces did.

Here’s why it’s important to wear your retainer after braces, as well as well as some tips on how to properly care for your retainer such as how often you should clean your retainer.

Why You Should Wear Your Retainer

It may seem like your teeth are already straight and in the right place once your braces come off. But when you understand how braces work, the need for a retainer becomes clear.

When your braces shift your teeth, they’re affecting the structure of your mouth. That includes changing the soft tissue around your teeth, your jawbone, and even the tendons in your mouth connected to your teeth.

When you don’t wear a retainer, it’s like letting go of a stretched rubber band. Your mouth – including those tendons and soft tissue – naturally wants to shift your teeth position back to what it was before braces. But a retainer gives your mouth additional time to adjust to the “new normal” of straight, beautiful teeth.

Because of this, retainers play a bigger role than just keeping your teeth straight. They also help your mouth heal properly after braces, preventing problems like impacted food and other issues.

Types of Retainers

Depending on your type of retainer, you might not even have to think about wearing your retainer. There are two types of orthodontic retainers: fixed and removable.

  • Fixed retainers consist of a wire running behind your teeth, cemented in place. These provide continuous support for your new smile. While they are sometimes called “permanent retainers,” they are actually not permanent.
  • Removable retainers are either plastic or acrylic. As the name implies, they can be removed (such as while you eat). Some removable retainers are designed to be “invisible,” or translucent enough that they don’t draw too much attention. Traditional plastic and metal retainers are called Hawley retainers, and they are the least expensive. They are also very noticeable.

How Long You Need to Wear a Retainer After Braces

Because your retainer helps keep your smile straight and mouth healthy, it’s a good idea to wear one for the rest of your life. However, you generally do not need to wear it as often as time goes on and your mouth “locks in” your new smile.

The amount of time you need to wear it per day generally depends on how long your braces have been off:

  • First 3-6 months after braces: It’s important to wear your retainer as much as possible. This means only taking it out to brush your teeth and eat. You’ll also want to wear it while you sleep.
  • 6-12 months after braces: Once you’ve had braces off 6 months, you can wear your retainer less. This means wearing it at night while you sleep or after school/work.
  • 12 months after braces and later: After this point, you’ll be able to wear your retainer every other night while you sleep.

Of course, if you have a fixed retainer, you won’t need to worry about how long you wear it. It will always be there to hold your smile in place.

Care Tips to Keep Your Retainer in Good Condition

To avoid accidentally breaking your removable retainer, it’s important to follow these basic care tips. They aren’t hard, and they fit into your normal daily routine. These are:

  • Take your retainer out while you eat. Eating with your retainer in puts stress on the acrylic and can weaken it.
  • Always store your retainer in its case. Most accidental damage happens when retainers aren’t stored properly. This also helps protect it from bacteria.

You should also deep clean your retainer at least once per day. You can use your toothbrush and toothpaste to gently brush it.

  • Avoid harsh chemicals. This includes bleach, chemical cleaners, and alcohol-based mouthwashes. Don’t put your retainer in boiling water, either, as this will change its shape and actually ruin your smile.

If you have questions about caring for your retainer or want to learn more about having a beautiful smile for life, don’t hesitate to contact us. Call us at either office: The Woodlands, TX at 281-367-0050 or in Montgomery, TX at 936-596-1200. You can also book an appointment online.

Dr. Pratt Manning is a highly recognized Board Certified Specialist in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, one of just five in The Woodlands area. She has dedicated her work to providing services that are custom tailored to each patient using state of the art materials and techniques and practices in all areas of orthodontic care.