How Long Should You Wear Your Retainers?

After you got your braces off, you got a retainer to keep your teeth in place. But how long do you have to keep wearing a retainer?

by Dr. Burhenne

How Long Should You Wear Your Retainers?

Retainers Question: For how long do I have to wear my retainers? Answer: It’s the age-old question. For an eternity, of course! But let me change your perspective on that bleak outlook.

The real question is, How long do you want to wear your retainers? Depends on how long you want your teeth to stay that way. So it’s really about how long you need to wear your retainers.

Teeth are not static. They are dynamic, always moving, and they will continue to move and shift even though you’ve had braces. They’ll try to move forward, up and outwards, and they will continually crowd. (You can read about this process, called mesial drift, here). If you chew your nails or smoke cigarettes, they will move. As we age, our bite, and hence, our face, collapses. This is inherently part of the aging process.

So, if you are a teenager, and just had your teeth moved into their optimal position via braces, those teeth have a strong tendency to relapse into their original position. The teeth actually have a “memory” of the position they were in before braces. There are ligaments that connect the teeth to the bone and these ligaments stretch as the teeth are moved to their new position.

This is where retainers come into play. They lock the teeth into place and, over time, the memory of these ligaments will fade. However, teeth are continually moving and shifting – not always to our advantage – and it is wise, once you’ve attained a functional and aesthetic bite vis-á-vi braces or Invisalign, it is important to maintain this position as long as you can.

In fact, Invisalign was first introduced as a product designed to correct adult relapse (aka adults who didn’t wear their retainers). Back to the question, how long should I wear my retainers for? Ultimately, the answer is, as long as you want them to be in the right position. I guess that means, into eternity! (Sorry!)

I still wear my Invisalign aligners, ten years after orthodontic correction. I wear them while I sleep, mountain bike, jog, and ski. Not only are my teeth not relapsing, but I am protecting them during these activities.

The retainers, then, have become just more than about keeping my teeth in place. They protect my teeth from wear and tear, too. So they’ve become lifelong friends, and good friends are meant for life!

Mark Burhenne DDS

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Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS


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  1. Hi thereif you need a cotaslnution, please just give us a call at the contact details at the top of the page. The initial visit is free I don’t charge, but you have to call us to arrange it.Thanks,TFO

  2. I got my braces last summer, 2015, and it’s about to be a year with them this summer, 2016. I have one more year but will I have to wear my retainers to school? If I were to leave me retainers at home, as if I forgot, will my teeth move throughout that whole day? Will it make a difference?

    • For the first 3 or so months, you should wear your retainers all the time, except when eating or brushing your teeth. Then you should wear it 1-2 times a week to maintain your teeth.

      If you forget your retainers at home and go to school for a day (~6 hrs), your teeth will shift a little but not much, but you should not get into the habit of forgetting so. One day won’t hurt, but the more you wear the retainers, the more maintained and better your teeth will look.
      Hope this helped!!

    • I’ve had braces for a year and a half and what I was told is to wear the retainer full time for a week (except for eating and brushing my teeth) and after that i only had to wear it at night but less and less (at first it was every night then when i when back to get a check up i was told i could skip a day and etc…) and even now (-almost- 5 years later) i still wear it but only once a week!
      And honestly if wearing that once a week keep my teeth perfect then i really don’t mind! 🙂

      (But the period of time needed to wear it is really confusing cause at first i got it adjusted every 6 months or so, and now well it’s been 4 years so it’s not tight at all anymore i feel like it’s not well adjusted anymore and it can even moves a bit after it’s in my mouth … )

      • I recently had my braces off and my dentist told me to only wear my retainers 24/7 for 1 week and then every night when I sleep but I got confused when watching videos of people saying they had to wear them for the first 3 months or more! did yours move at all and are they still in perfect condition?

  3. i want to ask question about retainer nowadays i am wearing my retainer before use teeth is not toward so can it be possible my teeth will tipp toward through retainer

  4. It’s been 3 complete years that I had my braces.. And just now I got my retainers.. Do I need to wear them even after 3 years of treatment…. And I’m feeling inconvenient while talking by using retainers.. Does all feel the same…

  5. From getting second and third opinions, I can say the prevailing wisdom today is “for life” wear at night…

    … but with much dissent. Several orthos I’ve consulted with have scoffed at that and only seek nighttime wear for 3-5 years.

    It really depends on your specific condition, how much movement, and what you’re doing. Mine is quite involved, and I’m just informing orthos up-front that with UARS, there’s no way (for my own health) they’re getting lifetime retainer wear out of me.

    Orthos really need to encourage more funding for solutions that are better than what we have. It’s still pretty darn barbaric if you’re encouraging wearing an appliance for life.

  6. i had my braces for over 4 years.. i barely got them off about 2 days ago, the woman said i needed to wear them all that day and then the next day i could wear them at night only. well lastnight i forgot to put them in i was so tired but i woke up @ 4am and put them in, i was wondering does it even matter how many hours you leave them in ?

  7. Hey I have a question I have had my braces for almost 4 years and I took them off almost 2 years ago about a week ago my retainers broke! Will the wire did can I still wear my retainers even if my wire broke or should I completely not wear them tell I get my retainers fixed? I just don’t want my teeth to shift and I’m freaking out! I’m going to get them fixed as soon as possible but I need help with this question I just don’t want to mess up my teeth if I wear my retainers even if there broken!

    • You need to visit your dentist and get a new one personally moulded again. I had to do it too. It sucks but you usually don’t make the mistake again

  8. It’s been seven years since I started using my retainer. I wear it every now and again, more often when I’m stressed as I know I will grind my teeth at night.

    I went travelling for two months and came back and wore my retainer to bed. I woke up and my teeth hurt like crazy. I was concerned that I shouldn’t have worn my retainer, but this thread implies that it was okay. If anyone else has experienced this let me know. Thanks

  9. Hi, I wore braces for 5 years (I was always too lazy to get them adjusted), and I’ve been wearing my retainers for about 2 and a half years now. I haven’t visited my dentist ever since I got my braces removed and I lost my retainer about a week ago and I was wondering if I could just stop wearing them instead of getting a new one.

  10. My retainers broke (someone stepped on my case) and I’m not going to have new ones made for another 3 weeks! I’m sort of panicking, since I really really don’t want braces again. Any advice?

  11. This is terrible news! I have to worry about having retainers awkwardly sit in my mouth all the time. What am I going to do on a business lunch? How am I suppose to kiss my boyfriend? It would be so uncomfortable to sleep with them in my mouth. And just think about all the money and time it took just to have my teeth move again!!

  12. Hey there!
    I hade my braces for 2,5 years and I had them removed 7 years ago (when I was 20 years old). Since then I have been wearing my retainers with the regularity that my dentist recommended. However, now I am traveling abroad for one month and I forgot my retainers at home. Do you think that for this one month my teeth will shift back? I am planning on wearing the retainer all the time for some time when I go back in order to compensate. But is it possible that the damage will be done already?

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