Do I Have to Wear Retainers Forever?

Patients can have braces for lots of different reasons, including the correction of issues like overcrowding, overbites, crossbites and crooked teeth. And even though every patient’s treatment plan will be unique to their needs, it seems all patients have one common question in mind, even before their treatment begins: When will my treatment be over? That’s kind of a difficult question to answer, because it’s really kind of complicated. Why? Because while you may be given a general idea of when your braces will be removed, keeping your teeth in proper alignment and maintaining those results means your treatment doesn’t really end – it just changes direction. And the last phase of your treatment is your retainer, a lightweight, custom-made device that’s specifically designed to help you maintain your results for life.

How does a retainer work?

Retainers are appropriately named, because what they do is help your teeth retain their proper positions and alignments after the braces come off. Retainers comprise a molded base that sits comfortably against your palate or lower gums and a guide wire that keeps your teeth properly aligned. They slip on and off easily, and they’re very easy to care for – just brush them with a soft brush, rinse them well and pop them into their case when you’re not wearing them.

How often will I need to wear my retainers once my braces are removed?

When your braces are initially removed, you’ll probably need to wear your retainers for most of the day for the first few months, then switch to nighttime wear for a period of time – usually a year or more. During this time, your jaw is completing the bone remodeling process, resorbing bone in some areas around the teeth and depositing it in other areas to help tooth roots become stable. After your teeth have become more or less settled in their new positions, most patients are advised to wear their retainers for three to five nights per week to help maintain the results of their orthodontic treatment.

Why do I need to keep wearing my retainer?

Your jaw, facial muscles and bones, and even your habits all have an influence on what are known as your bite mechanics – the way you bite and chew. And those bite mechanics exert specific forces on your teeth and your teeth roots. Over time, those forces can cause teeth to shift, even after your braces have been removed. That means your teeth can be pushed out of their new positions, reversing all the good “work” your braces accomplished during treatment. Retainers play a really important role in helping your teeth stay in proper alignment despite the forces that may be exerted against them.

Plus, there’s another reason why it’s important to keep wearing your retainer as part of your routine personal care. As we get older, our teeth tend to move forward very slowly. This gradual shifting is called mesial drift, and though scientists aren’t sure why it occurs, over time, the change in positions can cause teeth to become crooked and crowded. Wearing your retainer on a routine and consistent basis can help prevent shifting due to mesial drift.

What if my retainer breaks?

Retainers are pretty strong, but of course, a single retainer isn’t durable enough to last for the rest of your life. Most retainers need to be replaced within a few years, and the good news is, replacing a retainer is a simple process that can be performed by any orthodontist, which means even if you move away from our practice, you can still have a custom retainer made just for your needs.

What if I decide to have veneers or crowns? Can I still wear a retainer?

Yes. Before a crown or veneer is applied, a small amount of tooth material is removed to make room for the restoration, which means your retainer will continue to fit just fine.

Find out more about braces, retainers and other orthodontic treatments.

Are you ready to take the next step toward a healthier, more beautiful smile? Melbourne Orthodontics is a leading orthodontic practice in Melbourne, Florida, offering complete orthodontic care for patients of all ages. To learn more about retainers, braces the Invisalign alignment system, or other of orthodontic treatment options, call our office at 321-254-5232 and schedule a consultation today.