After active treatment is complete, we will likely prescribe retainers. Wearing retainers as prescribed is the key to maintaining the success of orthodontic treatment. The responsibility for keeping teeth where we moved them rests with you. This “retention” phase of care is critical to the long-term stability of treatment results.

Why are retainers prescribed?

Retainers are prescribed for two reasons: first, to allow the bone that holds teeth to rebuild after teeth have moved, and second, to maintain the healthy new positions of teeth after active orthodontic treatment ends. Your body changes your whole life, and your teeth change too. The only way to keep your teeth in the ideal position created by your orthodontic treatment is to wear retainers for life!

How long will retainers need to be worn?

Talk to us about how long you will wear your retainer. Many patients wear retainers nightly for life. Retainers cannot be worn too long or too much. Wearing retainers becomes part of your oral hygiene routine: brush and floss before bed, and wear retainers at night for a lifetime.

How long do retainers last?

With proper care, retainers can last many years. However, remember that retainers are similar to any other device and likely will need to be replaced at some point. Proper care of retainers will extend the lifetime of the retainer. “Proper care” consists of:

  • Storing removable retainers in their cases when the retainers are not in the mouth.
  • Keeping retainers away from heat sources, including the inside of hot cars.
  • Keeping retainers away from pets.
  • Don’t put your retainers in your pocket without the case.

If your retainer appears to have lost its shape, or if it no longer fits when you attempt to place it on your teeth, inform your orthodontist.

Are there different kinds of retainers?

Yes, there are two general kinds of retainers:

  • removable (put in and removed by the patient) and
  • fixed (placed and removed by your orthodontist).

We will recommend the type of retainer we believe is best suited to your needs. There are two kinds of removable retainers: wire and clear.

  • Wire retainers are made of wire and a plastic-like material. The part of the retainer that covers the roof of the mouth or goes behind the lower front teeth can be pink, like the inside of the mouth, or in some cases, wire retainers can be customized with fun designs, graphics, logos or different colors for a personal fashion statement.
  • Clear retainers are transparent trays made of a plastic-like material that are exact replicas of the teeth. We will teach you how to insert, remove and take care of a removable retainer. A fixed retainer consists of a thin, custom-fitted wire that is bonded to the tongue-side of upper or lower teeth. If the wire becomes loose on a tooth, it is important to notify us immediately.