Patient holding retainer

More and more people are getting braces to straighten their smiles, but there’s more to improving your teeth than just braces—you’ll need to wear a retainer afterward. Your orthodontist gives you instructions to wear it for a few months, but what about after that?

What a Retainer Does

First, it’s important to know what your retainer is doing. Your teeth moved while you had braces, but that movement probably won’t be permanent if you don’t wear a retainer. Your teeth are used to moving, & because the gum and bone around your teeth aren’t very strong when your braces are taken off, your teeth can move back toward their original positions over time. That’s why your orthodontist will give you a retainer to wear full time for the first few months after removing your braces—that retainer will keep your teeth from shifting back & help maintain your new smile!

When Can I Start Wearing My Retainer Just at Night?

After a few months, you’ll be able to stop wearing your retainer full time and wear it only at night. Ideally, you’ll do this for at least as long as your braces were on. Although your teeth are less likely to move quickly after wearing a retainer full time for a few months, they can still move, so it’s important to wear your retainer at night to avoid this.

Do I Have to Wear My Retainer Forever?

When it comes to wearing a retainer, consistency is key. Although many patients wear their retainers nightly for life, as time goes on, it’s generally okay to skip a few nights of wearing your retainer. The best way to ensure your teeth remain aligned, though, is to continue wearing your retainer at least every couple of nights, if not every night. Not wearing your retainer at all risks undoing all the hard work done while you had braces!

If you have questions about your retainer or how it fits, ask your dentist! They might be able to answer your questions, or they can refer you to an orthodontist who can help.

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