The Importance of Wearing Your Retainer

Your teeth have been beautifully straightened, and your smile is perfect. So what comes next? It’s time to talk about how to maintain that even smile — and keep your teeth from drifting back into an unattractive and non-functional position. 

At Georgetown Orthodontics in Washington, D.C., Dr. Maya V. Oliver has several options for retainers as well as advice on how to keep your new smile intact with good retainer wearing habits.

What do retainers do?

Retainers do what their name says — they retain the position of your teeth. When you get braces or other orthodontic treatment to reposition your teeth, they tend to return to their former position over time. The risk for this is higher right after your braces come off.

Wearing a retainer can help to keep your teeth in place during the months and years after your corrective tooth positioning. You can usually taper down the number of hours per day you wear your retainer over time as your teeth become more solidly planted in their new position. 

Types of retainers

The type of retainer you have can dictate how many hours a day it is worn. Dr. Oliver offers several different types of retainers depending on what kind of dental work you’ve had done.

Hawley retainers

The most traditional type of retainer is called a Hawley retainer. These retainers are made out of  either a rubber or a clear plastic material. The material rests against your gums for comfort, and a wire runs along the outer surface of your teeth. Hawley retainers keep your teeth in place and can be removed when needed for eating, brushing, or flossing. 

Clear retainers

These retainers are more modern, and are made of clear plastic that’s molded to fit the exact shape of your new smile. They slip on over your teeth and fit snugly, preventing teeth from shifting or moving. It can also be removed when needed, and have the advantage of being almost invisible compared to Hawley retainers.

Fixed retainers

Fixed or permanent retainers stay in your mouth 24/7. A thin wire is curved behind your upper and or lower arches of teeth and bonded in place with dental cement. You’ll typically wear a fixed retainer for a period of months, and Dr. Oliver will check it at intervals. If you have trouble remembering to wear your retainer, this might be the best option.

When should retainers be worn?

Dr. Oliver will recommend a daily retainer wear plan for removable retainers. Usually, you will want to wear your retainer as much as possible for the first few months after your teeth adjustment is complete. Then, you can wear your retainer only at night until the six-month mark, and eventually shift to wearing it for just a few hours a day.

The importance of a reliable retainer wear routine

If you don’t wear your retainer as directed, your teeth can start to shift back into their original position, or even drift into a new position. It’s very important to follow your retainer recommendation closely. If you can’t seem to remember to put your retainer in, a permanent retainer might be the best option. 

Make sure you also have good oral hygiene, as retainers can trap bacteria around your teeth and gums. Good periodontal health and good orthodontic results go hand in hand.

If you have questions about braces, Invisalign®, or retainers, contact our office at 202-400-3186 or book an appointment online with our scheduling tool. 


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