Wearing a Retainer After Braces

Is it true that if you don't wear your retainer after using conventional braces for a required period of 6-8 months, your teeth will move back to their initial state? Is it also true that you may need to wear it for as long as forever?

Doctor Answers 3

Just wear retainers as long as you want perfectly straight teeth

As a new orthodontist years ago, I told patients to wear retainers at night for two years, then throw them out.  Now, I know that relapse can occur at any age so I recommend that patients wear the retainers at night for the first couple years, then gradually reduce from every night to every other night, then every third night etc.  See how it goes to determine the wear necessary to keep the alignment you want.  Many people can reduce ware to one night a week or even one night a month and still maintain their result.  Others cannot.  Sometimes retreatment is necessary because of an inadequate treatment result in the first place.  Follow your orthodontists recomendation or consult with them for a re-evaluation if you are noticing too much shifting.

Denver Orthodontist

Yes, wearing a retainer after braces is necessary

Retention is an important part of your overall orthodontic treatment plan. Depending on the diagnosis and treatment plan done for your individual case, your orthodontist will determine the best method for retention of the final result.

Tooth movement is part of our overall aging process. It is not something that can be eliminated. Retainer wear after orthodontic treatment is the only way to attempt to maintain the results achieved during treatment. Even then, there is still a chance your teeth will move.

The duration of the retention phase varies from patient to patient.  You should discuss with your orthodontist what is the best way for you to maintain your straight smile.

Eric Gibbs, DDS
New York Orthodontist

Whether you've had braces or not...teeth are continually moving or shifting

It is true that teeth will move if retainers are not worn. The teeth will have a tendency to move back to their original positon. "Tendency" is the key word here meaning that teeth will shift but not necessarily all the back to their initial state. This tendency to shift is called orthodontic relapse. It is important to understand that the teeth are just another body part or tissue that is contantly changing as we age and get older. Hair changes color, skin wrinkles as it ages, eyes get weaker requiring glasses, etc. Teeth are not anchored in plaster or concrete.

Research has shown that teeth move or shift throughout our lifetime whether you have had braces or not. Retainers are your only guarantee to keep your teeth from moving. The current recommendation is that retention is forever. However, the frequency of retaner wear is a bit more subjective, dependent on your orthodontist's philosophy, individual variation and other factors. The protocol I use with my patients is as follows:

  1. Full time wear for first 6 months
  2. Nightime wear (10-12 hrs/day) for the next 6 months
  3. Every other night while sleeping for next 6 months
  4. One or two nights a week thereafter

The important thing is for each patient is to self-evaluate their retainer wear. If your retainer feels tight or different than it did when you last removed it...this indicates that the teeth are moving and you may want to increase your wear time.

Matt T. Walton, DMD
Suwanee Orthodontist
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.