If you’ve had orthodontic treatment, you should wear a retainer not just after your braces are removed but for the rest of your life. The most important time to wear a retainer is immediately after orthodontic treatment is completed, because the bone in your jaws needs some time to solidify around the new position of your teeth. But even well after your braces have been removed, your teeth can still shift. A retainer is important to make sure your orthodontic work keeps your teeth in place.
When you first begin wearing a retainer, you should wear it 12 hours or more per day for about six months, and then you can gradually decrease usage. Once your teeth have settled into place, wearing a retainer while you sleep 3 to 5 times a week should be enough. However, a retainer won’t last forever. How often you need to replace them will depend on a variety of things, including what type of retainer you have.
A bonded retainer is a type of permanent retainer that is a wire bonded to the back of your teeth. A bonded retainer on your upper teeth may last 3-5 years, while a lower bonded retainer will last longer because this part of the mouth doesn’t see as much activity.
Even if it’s been a short time since the retainer was placed, the wires can become unbonded to the teeth without you realizing it. Make sure to have your dentist check them out at regular check-ups.
At some point when you’re years out of braces, you can have your bonded retainers removed and switch to removable ones.
There are two main types of removable retainers, Hawley and Essix. Dr. DeGeorge will review these with you at your appointment and determine the optimal retainer for you. Essix retainers can last from six months to a few years. Hawley retainers will typically last longer. Whatever retainer you end up using, be sure to have an orthodontist check them to ensure that your beautiful smile is always “retained.”