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Home / Blog / Braces / Will I Need To Wear A Retainer After Braces?

Will I Need To Wear A Retainer After Braces?

Medically reviewed by Dr Minoo Ghamari  / Apr 10, 2024  
Medically reviewed by Dr Minoo Ghamari  
Apr 10, 2024  
Will I Need To Wear A Retainer After Braces?

Braces help straighten your teeth, but they can be very invasive and take a long time to complete treatment. It's only understandable that you want to be rid of braces for good after you get your brackets removed, but will you need to wear a retainer afterwards?

The answer is almost always yes, nearly everyone who wears braces will need some kind of retainer after their initial treatment. Keep reading our guide to learn everything you need to know about life with a retainer after braces.

What does a retainer do after braces?

Just like metal braces have an important role in straightening your teeth, retainers also have a vital job to do. When you get your braces off, your teeth are likely to want to move back to their original position if you don't wear a retainer. This means that all the time you spend wearing your braces will be for nothing, as your smile will become more crooked over time.

While wearing braces, your gums and fibrous ligaments become loose because they're not needed to hold your teeth in place - the braces are doing all the hard work for them. The gums won't tighten straight away, so a retainer will keep your teeth straight and in place while they catch up.

Retainers can be worn less frequently over time, but the chances are you'll need to wear them around the clock as soon as your braces come off. Your orthodontist will let you know when you can stop wearing your retainer.

What are the different types of retainers?

There are two main types of retainers you might be offered - permanent retainers and removable retainers. Your orthodontist will be able to determine which retainer is best for you depending on your new smile and bone structure.

Permanent retainers

Permanent retainers use a thin, fixed wire bonded behind the top and bottom teeth, so you won't be able to see them when you're smiling or talking. The retainer shouldn't bother you as it's adhered with cement similar to how your braces were bonded to the front of your teeth.

A fixed retainer can only be removed by a dentist or orthodontist, and most people who wear permanent retainers can have them installed for several years. As long as the retainer doesn't start to bother you after a few years, you can even wear it indefinitely to make sure your smile stays straight.

Removable retainers

Removable retainers are often moulded to your new smile and made from clear plastic. They can be fitted over your teeth to keep them in place without being seen when you smile or talk. Removable retainers can also be made from bendable wire and acrylic, but clear retainers are much more popular as they're less seen.

Removable retainers are much more popular because they can be removed, giving you some freedom when eating and drinking. However, while this is popular among braces patients, it can also be an issue as it improves the risk of losing them. If you lose your retainer you might need to pay for another unless you want to risk your teeth moving back to their original position.

What can you expect with a retainer?

We know that the thought of wearing retainers after braces can be a daunting thought. Braces can be annoying and frustrating, especially when you've been wearing them for years. However, most people who have braces find wearing a retainer to be a breeze. Most find the retainer to be more comfortable as there's no metal wire rubbing the inside of your cheeks, and your teeth shouldn't ache as they're not being moved. However, retainers will still take a while to get used to.

If your retainer wire sits behind your teeth, your tongue will find it annoying for the first few days. It can also impact your speech and give you a lisp for a while. However, practising your speech while wearing the retainer will help reduce the severity of this. It shouldn't take you long for your speech to return to normal after getting your braces fitted.

What's the difference between retainers and Invisalign?

Both removable retainers and Invisalign braces are very similar in appearance, so some might be wondering what the difference is. The biggest variation between Invisalign braces and retainers is that the former is designed to straighten your teeth without the use of metal traditional braces, while retainers are used to keep teeth straight after your metal braces are taken off.

Invisalign braces can move your teeth around 0.2 mm every two weeks until your teeth are straight. They're a popular alternative to braces for adults who don't want traditional metal braces invading their smile. Invisalign braces will need to be worn 22 hours a day, so while they are removable for when you're eating and drinking, they still need to be used for the majority of your day. After treatment has finished, you'll need to use your last Invisalign tray as your ongoing retainer.

What happens if you stop wearing a retainer early?

A retainer is the final stage of your orthodontic treatment and is considered the maintenance phase. While it might be tempting to end your retainer treatment early, your teeth might surprise you in shifting back to their original positions.

Our teeth have an impressive memory when it comes to their original position, so they might shift even months after you get your braces removed. The first three to six months after braces come off are critical for wearing a retainer as this is when the teeth are most likely to move back.

Once your orthodontist is happy that your teeth are beginning to settle into their new positions, they might instruct you to only wear the retainer at night. You'll need to wear it for the foreseeable, so make sure you don't lose it! If your retainer breaks or gets lost, you'll need to book an appointment with your orthodontist to get a replacement as soon as possible.

When can you stop wearing retainers?

Whether or not you can stop wearing your retainer for good will depend on the type of treatment you had and how likely your teeth are to shift. Some people wear a night retainer for years after initial treatment, while others only need to wear them for twelve months. It all depends on your bone structure as to whether your teeth will shift after not wearing your retainer. Some people find that they can go weeks without a retainer before their teeth start to move, while others find their teeth shift after only a few days.

You can tell if your teeth have shifted by wearing your retainer. When it feels normal and like it's fitting well, your teeth are likely not to have moved. However, when you put your retainer on and it feels a little tight, this is a good indication that your teeth have moved. When this happens, make sure you wear your retainer for longer than you usually would to influence them to move back to their straight position.

How can you care for your retainer properly?

Taking proper care of your retainers is vital for improving their lifespan and keeping them fresh. Clear retainers can become discoloured if they're not looked after properly, which can influence the appearance of your smile.

Looking after permanent retainers

Your permanent retainer can be looked after by practising good oral hygiene. Make sure you brush the backs of your teeth thoroughly to prevent food particles from getting stuck beneath the braces. It will take some practice, but most people are able to brush and floss around permanent retainers within a few days of having them fitted. Keeping up to date with your teeth cleaning appointments can also help keep your fixed retainer healthy.

Looking after removable retainers

When you get your removable retainer, you'll also get a case to keep it in when you're not using it. Take this case with you at all times to make sure you have it when you need it, as this will reduce the likelihood of you losing the retainers. Removable retainers need to be rinsed before you put them back in your mouth after eating or drinking. Wash them with warm water only as boiling water can change their shape.

Avoid using your regular toothbrush as this will scratch the plastic. Keep them out of microwaves and dishwashers, too. Keep the retainer away from pets, as some like to chew and destroy them!

Final thoughts

The majority of people who wear braces will need to wear retainers after treatment as a maintenance phase. This helps protect the teeth from shifting into their original positions, making all of the time wearing braces for nothing. Some people will only need to wear retainers for a few months while others will need to wear them, to some degree, for years. You can get fixed and removable retainers, although the latter is often the most popular.

No matter which type of retainer you get, make sure you look after it and wear it as your orthodontist recommends to keep your smile looking as straight and sparkling as possible!

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