For many, getting braces removed is a long-awaited relief — a restoration of freedom if you will. That being said, many are often disappointed upon recalling the fact that they now have to wear a retainer.
The easiest way to describe the feeling would be that of a prisoner breaking out from their cell, only to find themselves trapped in a slightly larger cell.
However, while wearing a retainer isn’t fun by any means, it is necessary. Today we’re going to have a look at some of the reasons you need to wear your retainer and fill you in on just how long it’ll be residing in your mouth.
Why Do I Need A Retainer?
First of all, let’s clear up a common misconception that retainers only follow after braces. In reality, retainers need to be worn after any position-correcting treatment/procedure is completed — be it Invisalign or surgery.
When the position of your teeth have just been corrected, the gum and bone holding them in place aren’t strong enough to handle the task on their own — at least not yet — so retainers serve as added support for the time being.
Eating and speaking will gradually strengthen the supportive tissue around your teeth, ensuring that they don’t shift back to the original position.
Failing to wear your retainer will lead to your teeth gradually shifting back, making the entire endeavor a waste of time and money. Retainers aren’t too different from home insurance as they both seek to protect your investment.
How Often Do I Need To Wear My Retainer?
For most teenagers and adults, wearing retainers to bed and in between meals is ideal for the first few months while the supportive tissue regains its strength.
As your teeth gradually settle into the corrected position, you can wear your retainer less often — though keeping them on longer can only do good. Wearing your retainer is like going to the gym, you don’t have to go every day but the more you go, the better.
After spending so many years with braces then retainers following immediately after, you’re probably wondering if your mouth will ever be free from restraints.
In a perfect world, you’d wear your retainers for the rest of your life. That being said, we can understand that you might want to give your mouth a break.
After the first year, try to wear your retainer for at least a few nights each week to ensure that your teeth retain their current position. While it’s not as effective as keeping your retainers on through the whole week, it’s certainly better than not wearing them at all.
If you find that your teeth constantly shift even when you only have your retainer off for short periods, you’ll want to see a dentist to have your retainer re-evaluated.
They retainer may need to be adjusted so that your teeth stay in place even during periods when you are unable to wear it.
The general rule of thumb is that you should wear your retainer for a little longer than you wore your braces for. For instance, if you had your braces on for a year then you’ll want to wear your retainer as often as possible for a little over a year before considering a reduction.
Lastly, it’s important to note that the severity of the correction plays a factor here. If your teeth were very crooked prior to getting your braces in, they may be more prone to shifting and thus you should wear your retainer for longer after getting your braces off.
Conversely, if the corrections to your teeth were relatively minor then you can get away with wearing your retainer less.
In the next section, we’re going to go over the proper process for gradually reducing the amount of time you wear your retainers — with the key word here being “gradually.”
Going from wearing your retainer full-time to wearing it only a few nights a week is not something that you should spring on your teeth. If you want your teeth to retain their current position, you should make this reduction gradually.
Consult with a dentist to ensure that you’re following a safe schedule that won’t undo the progress that you’ve made. Here are the three levels of retainer usage:
Wearing your retainer full-time means that you only take it out when eating, then immediately put it back on afterward. As we discussed above, you’ll likely remain in this phase for a duration equal to the amount of time you spent wearing your braces.
The owl retainer schedule is far easier to stick to in comparison to the full-time phase. During this phase, you’ll want to keep your retainers in whenever you sleep — seven nights a week.
While you’ll still be wearing the retainers daily, it’ll be much less of a hassle since you don’t have to be conscious about your appearance when meeting with friends and eating out won’t be an issue either.
After maintaining the nocturnal schedule with your retainers long enough and getting the “go signal” from a qualified dentist, you can reduce the amount of time that you spend wearing them further.
You can start off by taking them off on Sundays, then weekends entirely, until you slowly but surely make your way to the point where you’re only wearing your retainers a few nights a week.
A qualified dentist is your best friend during this process as they will be able to guide you on the proper pacing.
We know that wearing braces and retainers aren’t fun, but it’s all worth it in the end when you get the confident smile that you’ve always wanted. Straight teeth also provide benefits beyond the aesthetic level, and that’s what we’ll be covering in our next article, so stay tuned!
If your retainer is causing any oral problems, feel free to drop by one of our clinics so we can take a look at you. If you don’t have the time to visit us in person then you can give us a call at (312) 236-9325!
We also offer emergency dentistry in the event that you notice breakages in your retainer. Even less urgent issues like discomfort should be brought to our attention so that we can help you find a remedy that doesn’t involve losing any progress on your journey towards the perfect smile.
Remember, healthy teeth make for a happier smile!