Why You Should Wear Your Retainer for Life

By January 11, 2016Blog, Life After braces

wear your retainer

Retainers are extremely important for maintaining straight teeth after braces. How long do you need to wear your retainer? The best answer is forever. Keep reading to learn why it’s so important to wear your retainer after braces—not just for a year or two, but for the rest of your lifetime.

Why Are Retainers So Important?

The purpose of the retainers is to minimize relapse, or the shifting of the teeth back toward their original positions. In the early days of orthodontics, retainers were not used and the teeth tended to relapse. As a result, appliances called retainers were developed to maintain tooth alignment and reduce relapse. Retainers are absolutely necessary for keeping your teeth straight after you get your braces taken off. If you do not wear your retainer after orthodontic treatment, as directed by your orthodontist, your teeth will shift back toward the way they were before you got your braces. You may even need to get braces again.

Why Dr. Dougherty Recommends that You Wear Your Retainer for Life

After you get your braces taken off, your teeth will continue to shift with age—unless you continue to wear your retainer on a regular basis. When retainers were first developed, it was thought that one or two years of retention (retainer wear) would be enough to maintain tooth alignment. However, long-term studies have shown that this is not sufficient. Studies of the stability of orthodontic treatment done at the University of Washington found unacceptable relapse in about 70% of patients who wore their retainers for only one to two years after braces. The bottom front teeth, in particular, were especially prone to relapse. When the same study was repeated using patients treated with lifetime retention (lifetime use of retainers) the amount of unacceptable relapse was reduced to less than 10%. That’s why Dr. Dougherty exclusively recommends lifetime retention.

Do You Have to Wear Your Retainer All Day and Night, Forever?

No. You only need to wear your retainer at all times, day and night, for the first three months after your braces are removed. During those first three months, retainers must be worn all the time, except when you’re eating or brushing your teeth. After that, you can begin a nighttime-only routine. Wearing your retainers nightly for a lifetime following twelve weeks of full-time wear will keep that new grin gorgeous!

At Dougherty Orthodontics, we offer different kinds of retainers. These include clear Invisalign-style retainers (Essix), acrylic and metal retainers (Hawley), and permanent retainers. We will help you select the right retainer for your individual needs and goals.

This video shows a clear retainer in action. Watch what happens to your teeth with good retainer wear versus poor retainer wear.

Have questions about why you should wear your retainer for life or about what type of retainer is right for you? Contact us.  Call our office at 636.825.1000 or email info@doughertyorthodontics.com to schedule a consultation with Dr. Dougherty.

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