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Last Updated on February 23, 2023

Do You Have to Wear a Retainer Forever?

Lady Doctor providing RETAINERs to a boy

The whole purpose of getting your teeth straightened is to enhance how you look and feel. It allows you to flash a beaming smile whenever you feel like it. But if you have to wear a retainer over those newly straightened teeth, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of what can be an expensive and, at times, uncomfortable exercise?

Of course, but in the world of tooth straightening, retainers are a necessary evil.

Will you have to wear retainers forever?

No. Most people don’t have to wear a retainer forever.

Typically you wear a retainer full time for the first three to six months. But the day will eventually come when you need to wear your retainers only when sleeping. And then maybe not at all. But for that day to arrive sooner rather than later, you must be diligent with your retainer wearing for the best part of a year.

Your dentist will instruct you to practice removing them when:

  • Eating
  • Flossing

You will eventually reduce their use gradually over a number of months.
After your first year of wearing retainers, you will be fitted with a new set, adjusted to the shape your teeth have taken on. You can expect this new set to be your forever retainers, the pair that will last you for the duration of your life.

However, accidents with your teeth will mean starting the process all over again, so you need to see your retainer as protection against any mishaps.

Why wear a retainer?

To put it simply, because your dentist says so. After you have a brace, your teeth are at risk of moving back towards their original positions. Wearing a retainer is vital to ensure your smile remains straight.

You must trust your dentist as the expert to mend those offensive teeth. And having invested time and skill into giving you the best smile possible, your orthodontist won’t allow you to undo all the work put into those teeth.

Consider for a moment how your orthodontist has worked on improving your smile.

  • They have taken molds of your teeth and seen which ones are causing unsightly gaps or an irritating overbite.
  • They have configured the best placement for your teeth
  • They have fitted braces or aligners to encourage them to remain in that position. And you may at times have felt discomfort as the teeth were adjusting themselves.

But with the removal of braces and aligners, you can see that it was all worth it. You were ready to beam at the world with your new smile. But your dentist said. “No.” Instead, you had to wear a retainer 24/7 for at least three months, and you were to see your retainer as a replacement for your braces! And that was if you were given removable retainers!

If, on the other hand, you had complex work done involving, for example, jaw realignment, you more than likely got permanent retainers. And these, being bonded to your teeth with wires, are likely to be in your mouth for a long time, perhaps even for life.

But why replace one type of tooth covering with another?

Your dentist will have explained that the teeth are now in position, but when free of the restrictions may decide to return to their original position. And you spent time and money encouraging them to leave that position.

The retainer is your guarantee they will not give in to that temptation and, using gentle encouragement, urges them to stay in the place the orthodontist chose for them.

Do I have to wear retainers all day every day?

Lady Doctor showing RETAINERs

This depends on the extent of your treatment. Patients who have had minor adjustments made to their teeth may not need to wear retainers for as long as those who have had complex treatment.

Patients who are fitted with permanent retainers may have to wear them forever. But again, your orthodontist will be able to advise on your specific case.
A lot will also depend on how disciplined you are about caring for your teeth.

How long will I have to wear my retainers in public?

The length of time you have to wear retainers all day every day depends on a number of factors.

  1. First three months: For the first three months after having your braces removed, you will have to wear them at all times.
  2. After three months: After the three months have expired, you can expect your orthodontist to call you in for a check-up. This is to ensure your teeth have stayed in the position they have been aligned to. If they have, your dentist may allow you to reduce the amount of time you spend wearing your retainers a little.
  3. After assessment: However, you are not retainer free yet. Teeth have a nasty habit of slipping back into their original position, so you will have to wear a retainer until that danger has passed.

Why does it take so long?

Why does this expensive and time-consuming process take so long?

Essentially, your teeth can move and they need time to stabilize in their new positions.
A peek from time to time at before and after photographs of your teeth will answer that question. This will convince you of the value of maintaining the new smile your dentist gave you. A glance at those once crooked teeth will give you the impetus you need to continue using the retainers.

An even more compelling reason to continue wearing them might be to ask your dentist to show you the original model he took of your teeth before starting work. Then you will be able to see what happened below the gum line in the course of your treatment.

You will be able to see:

  1. How the teeth moved in the fleshy part of the gum
  2. How once crooked teeth were encouraged to stand straight and firm
  3. How teeth moved to fill gaps
  4. How an unsightly overbite has disappeared

Then you will understand how much has been happening in your mouth for over a year or two. You will also recognize the skill required to align those teeth and to give you a beaming smile that you can greet the world with.

Having viewed the before and after shots of your mouth, wearing retainers will become less of a chore and more of a continuation of necessary treatment.

What about check-ups?

Committing to wearing your retainers by night will guarantee that smile. And if there is slippage, if a stubborn tooth decides not to stay in place, the retainers and regular check-ups will ensure that it is encouraged to return to the place where it should be.

At each check-up, the orthodontist will monitor the progress you are making. If your orthodontist feels you are making good progress, you may be encouraged to lessen your time wearing your retainer.

However, if the specialist detects a dis improvement in your teeth and your smile, you can expect to be told to wear your retainer more regularly.

How long should this routine continue for?

To give a simple answer, forever.

You have invested time and money in your teeth. To see a return on your investment, you need to take care of that smile. Like other body parts, your teeth keep changing. To ensure your smile doesn’t change, you need the retainer to continue the work your dentist once did.

Here’s the upshot, if you keep wearing your retainer at night, you can continue smiling confidently. Your orthodontist and your discipline in wearing your retainer have ensured that gappy or crooked smile is a thing of the past and you can cheerfully smile at all and sundry.


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