You’ve suffered through several embarrassing years of braces or Invisalign, only to be told that there’s another step — retainers. How long will you need to wear your retainers, and how often will you need to wear them every day? And what do those annoying plastic things do, anyway? We’ll break it down.
How Do Retainers Work?
Retainers — you guessed it — retain the position of your new teeth after braces. Unfortunately, braces or not, your teeth are always on the move (called a mesial drift), shifting with time and as you age. The good news? Retainers help to halt this process by keeping your teeth in their braces-era positions. The bad news? You’ll need to wear your retainers for the rest of your life to prevent this mesial drift from progressing too far.
The Pros of Wearing a Retainer
Your teeth (like most of us) don’t like change — they like to gravitate right back where they were before braces. Luckily, by wearing a retainer, you help train your smile to know what its new norm is. The best part of wearing your retainer? After wearing it for a long period of time, it will take your teeth longer and longer to go back to their original alignment, which means (don’t tell your dentist!) you can afford to go a few days without wearing it without causing any real harm.
How Long Do I Wear My Retainer?
Retainers can be broken into stages, and the longer you’ve worn them, the less you’ll need to wear them. Confused? Take a look.
3-6 months after braces: For the first few months after removing your braces or Invisalign, you’ll really be getting acquainted with your retainers. Dentists and orthodontists advise that you wear them all day and night, only taking them out to eat and brush your teeth. The good thing about most retainers is that they’re clear, meaning only you will know that you’re wearing them.
2 years after braces: After two years, you can begin wearing your retainer only at night. Score!
3 years after braces and onwards: After three years, you can begin to be more flexible about wearing your retainers. You don’t need to wear them every night — a few nights a week should be enough to keep your smile right where it’s meant to be.