A common question for orthodontic patients is how long they should wear their retainer after treatment. It’s not a simple question to answer, but simply put, the longer you wear it the better because your teeth will start shifting again as soon as you take them out.
What Are Retainers For?
After you have had braces, a retainer will almost always be given to you. Without wearing it consistently afterwards, you run the risk of your teeth shifting back into their original position, the one that you wore braces so long to fix.
You can think of your teeth as having their own memory. It takes about a year for your teeth to settle into their new position in most cases. Before the year mark is up, they’ll try to return to their original position because there is no new bone growth to stabilize them. Wearing a retainer helps to retrain your teeth in this way.
Your San Antonio orthodontist will probably ask you wear one of three different kinds of retainers. First of all, understand that none of these retainers are built to last forever. Over time they’ll wear out. As a result, you should have them replaced regularly to ensure that they’re always working for you the way they should.
The first kind of retainer is a Bonded Retainer. This kind of retainer is made of a wire behind the curve of your teeth, holding it in a fixed position. Depending on your bite, this kind of retainer might be given to you for your upper or lower teeth. This kind of retainer takes a bit more effort to care for, and it will need to be flossed and brushed around every day. Bonded retainers usually last from 2-5 years, depending on how often and how well you care for them.
Hawley retainers are the second kind of retainer that you might be given after orthodontic treatment. They are what are usually thought of when the word “retainer” is mentioned. Hawley retainers are more durable than bonded retainers, usually lasting about 5-8 years with proper care. They are made of a wire wrapped around 6 teeth to keep them securely in place.
Essix retainers are clear plastic retainers that fit over your teeth snugly. Because of the form fitting nature of the retainer, they will require more regular and more thorough cleaning than the other two. They are also prone to break more quickly. On average, these retainers will last a little under 3 years.
No matter what kind of retainer you wear, it’s best to keep an eye out for signs that it’s wearing out. As soon as your retainer loses the contour of your teeth, it will no longer be effective at keeping them in place. You should check your retainer often to make sure that it doesn’t crack, loosen, or bend.
You should maintain your retainer exactly as you’re asked to by your orthodontist. It will last longer and keep its shape more reliably as long as you do. Also, its recommended that you bring your retainer with you to your dentist as often as you see them (hopefully every 6 months!) so that they can clean it for you.
Simply put, you have two options in regards to the use of your retainer. It might seem like a bit much to wear your retainer for the rest of your life, but the alternative is to put on braces again. It’s up to you which one of those you choose, but the former is strongly recommended.