For folks who have gone through the long process of getting their orthodontics installed, following through with your braces or Invisalign treatment, and then having them removed only to have to go through another long process of wearing retainers, It can feel like the process will never end. This process can feel even more enduring if you happen to go with permanent retainers as these can feel like more low-key braces. However, is there actually a light at the end of the tunnel? Will there be a time in your life when you actually do not need to wear braces any longer and can simply take them off for the last time?
Although many questions are asked about when you can actually remove them, there are some universal facts and some subjective ones that are important to know about your retainer, its purpose, and when it might be safe to remove it. Before we can take a look at that let’s see what the experts have to say when it comes to orthodontic retainers.
Orthodontists use a combination of fixed and removable retainers to achieve retention (Andriekute A et al.,2017). For many people, removable retainers are all that is necessary.
Not all orthodontists agree on the length of time retainers should be worn (Andriekute A et al.,2017). This is because there is no one set of teeth that is exactly the same as another one. Everyone will need to wear their retainer until they no longer need to.
Some recommend wearing a retainer for life (Andriekute A et al.,2017). For people who have a looser jaw matrix, this may be necessary, at least at night.
What do retainers do?
So what is your retainer doing in the first place? As the name suggests, your retainer is retaining something. In this case it is retaining your teeth in the positions they have achieved through the previous orthodontic treatment phase. Whether you used Invisalign, braces, or any other type of orthodontic work, your teeth got looser as they were pulled into new positions. This looseness, if not accounted for, could cause your teeth to either shift into the old positions again that you struggled so hard to get them out of or it could also potentially cause your teeth to shift into new and potentially worse positions.
It’s absolutely essential that you utilize the retainer as it will help keep your teeth in the positions that they have achieved. This is also why it can also be important to have a spare retainer in case one of yours is lost or damaged. Wearing a retainer for the requisite amount of time is the surest way of making sure that your teeth stay put.
How long do you wear a retainer?
As was noted by the experts, there does not seem to be a solid consensus about how long one should wear retainers for. It is little wonder then that your own local offices might have different opinions on how long you need to wear a retainer for. One thing that all orthodontic offices do agree on though is that longer is definitely better. You need to wear your retainer until the risk of your teeth moving is to a low enough degree that the balance of probability is that your teeth will not move out of their newly established positions. This will be different for every individual and is one of the reasons why getting regular orthodontic check-ups can be a great method to find out whether you still need to utilize your retainer or whether you can finally retire it.
What happens if you do not wear your retainer?
If you’re asking what happens if you don’t wear your retainer, the implication is that you want to find out whether it would be worth it for you to take off your retainer early or simply not wear it at all versus having to utilize another orthodontic appliance. However, this is the wrong question to be asking as you really should be asking how long you should wear it for.
As for what will happen if you do not wear your retainer, the literature is quite clear – not wearing your retainer will almost certainly result in your teeth going back to their old positions or shuffling into new positions that are even worse. Your retainer is designed to help retain your teeth where they are currently. This is because your teeth are a bit loose after your previous orthodontic procedures and now that that treatment is over they are still loose. Until they can set fast in their new spots, it would be foolhardy to even think of taking out your retainer as this will almost certainly result in your teeth reverting back into their old positions. It is absolutely essential that you wear your orthodontic retainer for as long as your orthodontic office recommends.
When can I stop wearing my retainer or how long to wear retainers?
There are a couple of very popular ways of determining when it is best to remove your orthodontic retainer. The first and by far most common way is to simply talk with your orthodontic office. While there are some offices that will recommend utilizing a retainer for life, many other offices recognize that that is simply not a viable option for most individuals. Even though there might be still some minor risk of teeth moving, many offices will give a more definite time frame for when you most likely will be able to take off your retainer for the last time.
If you have a permanent retainer, you’ll already need to visit your orthodontic office anyway as it will require their assistance to remove it safely without damaging your teeth. For many individuals the time with a removable retainer will be a year or two, and sometimes longer. The fact is the longer that you use the retainer for, the less risk there is of your teeth going back into their old positions.
If you have been wearing your retainer for two or three years, then that likelihood is significantly decreased and your office may recommend that although there is still some minor chance teeth may shift a little bit, the risk is now minimal and it is safe for you to remove your retainer.
As with all medicine, orthodontic retainers are incredibly individualized, and only by talking with your office will you be able to determine what will be in your best interest and help protect the smile you have achieved.
So you’ve just finished your orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign and you feel amazing. However, this is just the end of the initial phase of treatment, as the next phase involves wearing your retainer. You may wonder how long you have to wear your retainer, and depending on your circumstances you may have a few months to wear it a bit longer.
If you’ve had a good orthodontist, you would have been made aware of the necessity to wear your retainer once the active phase of your orthodontic treatment is complete and this would not come as a shock to you. However, if you were surprised by this, there is no need to fret because retainers are not such a huge deal compared to the active phase of the orthodontic treatment. This by no means indicates that retainers are non-essential.
In fact, you will most likely have to wear your retainers for at least 22 hours a day until your orthodontist recommends that you wear them only at night. However, you may still wonder how long you have to wear your retainer. We’ll go over some general guidelines, but it is important to follow your orthodontist’s recommendations that are specifically for you.
Andriekute, A., Vasiliauskas, A., & Sidlauskas, A. (2017). A survey of protocols and trends in orthodontic retention. Progress in orthodontics, 18(1), 31. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40510-017-0185-x
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