One of the most common questions I am asked when people come to the end of their braces journey is “How long do I have to wear my retainer for?” That’s a great question!  After putting in all that time and money to get such an awesome smile, why would you not want to protect your investment?  So here’s the deal – your braces are off or you have finished your Invisalign treatment and from now ’til eternity (well, maybe not quite that long)… your retainer is your new BFF!

Yep. True story. Many people don’t realize that teeth naturally try to shift throughout your life – your entire life – and only by wearing a retainer can you keep them as perfect as they did look the day you had your braces removed. It is important to wear your retainer full time (except when eating or brushing) for the first six months to a year, depending on your teeth. After that, you can switch to nighttime wear only while you are sleeping. Types of Retainers

There are two main types of retainers: removable and fixed. Removable retainers easily slide out of your mouth when you eat or brush your teeth.

hawley retainer, the most common type of removable retainer, adheres to your mouth’s shape and is kept in place by a wire that wraps around your teeth. Most patients who finish Phase I or Interceptive Treatment will be given Hawley retainers.

Another type of removable retainer is the invisible, or Essix retainer. These are made of clear plastic and are barely noticeable. We typically give Essix retainers to our patients after comprehensive braces or Invisalign treatment. They can also double as bleaching trays. 

Fixed, or permanent retainers, consist of a solid or braided wire that is curved to fit the shape of your newly straightened teeth. The wire is cemented (bonded) to the inside of your teeth to keep them from moving. They are also called lingual wire, or bonded retainers. Permanent retainers are only recommended to patients who are more prone to relapse, such as a gap between their two front teeth or a lot of crowding not their lower arch. These are not recommended for everyone due to the difficulty to floss properly. Removable Essix retainers are still required over permanent retainers to hold posterior teeth in place.

Like all BFFs, retainers can’t be neglected, and require some maintenance! For a fixed retainer, regular checkups with your dentist are especially necessary to check for cavities and keep the areas around those teeth clear of tartar and plaque. Removable retainers can be cleaned by soaking them in warm water or even denture cleaning tablets. Do keep your retainer in its case if you’re not wearing it, and remember – no BFF should be left for too long in a hot car!