How Long Should a Retainer Be Worn?
A question I am asked often is: how long should a retainer be worn? I recommend to my patients that retainers be worn every night for at least two years after the braces come off. It takes at least six months after the braces come off for the bone to solidify with the teeth in the new position.
After that you can use the retainers as a weekly check appliance to see if the teeth remain in place. The retainer is worn once a week at night to see if it still fits. Of course longer is always better to wear a retainer because we all get shifting of teeth over time especially if the braces were correcting a crowded tooth position.
Another option is an Invisalign or Essix retainer. These are both clear retainers and have no wires. They are more comfortable for patients to wear because they do not go across the roof of the mouth. They are more easily worn for a longer period of time.
A further option is a bonded retainer after the braces come off. This retainer is bonded to the back of the upper and lower front teeth. This should be worn for 5 to 10 years. If this option is chosen it requires more frequent cleanings.
Another question I am often asked is, what happens if the retainer no longer fits?
If the teeth have not moved that much a traditional retainer can be adjusted to fit. I usually add springs to my traditional retainers to have them ready to move the teeth back in case they have shifted. You should go back to your orthodontist to see if the retainer can be adjusted. You should not just let it go.
If the old retainer cannot be made to fit and the teeth have not moved too far then a new retainer can be made to realign the teeth.
If the teeth have moved too far for a retainer to work then some re-treatment is necessary. If only minor tooth movement is required Invisalign Express or MTM No Trace can be used.
If more major treatment is required, Invisalign or of course, regular braces can be used. For those who have had braces as children and need re-treatment but do not want any one to know that they are wearing braces there is the option of wearing braces on the inside of the teeth. These are called lingual braces.
The bottom line is as follows:
- You should try and wear your retainer as long as possible to stabilize the teeth and the bite.
- There are many options to correct teeth that have shifted as a result of not wearing retainers.