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How Long Do I Have to Wear a Retainer?

Randy Feldman DDS MS, Chief Smile Officer of Blue Wave Orthodontics can answer the question, “How long do I have to wear a retainer?” with a simple answer, “For as long as you want to retain your beautiful ‘Blue Wave’ smile.” But, we will explain why that is true and will tell you more about our Lifetime Removable Retainer program as well.
Why Do I Need A Retainer?
After your orthodontic treatment, whether traditional braces or Invisalign, your orthodontist will provide you with a retainer and instructions.
There are three main types of retainers:
  1. Bonded retainers use a metal wire that goes behind the teeth, but these are difficult to clean and often can break, especially with finger nail biting habits.
  2. Hawley retainers are most recognizable with their metal wire wrapping around the teeth. They are not esthetically pleasing, and also have issues with cleaning.
  3. The most preferred “Clear” Essix -style retainers, which are “invisible” and snap onto your teeth. Our office feels they are the best option for retaining your beautiful smile, and our office uses those primarily and they are a part of our Retainers for Life program.


A girl crossing her arms while posing for a photo in the woods.

How Often Should I Wear my Retainer?

Every orthodontic patient gets an individualized answer, regarding their retainer regimen; however, as a general guideline you should wear your retainer as follows:
  • First 2 months 22 hours
  • Year 1: Every night after dinner and while you sleep
  • Year 2-3: Sunday thru Thursday, same regimen
  • Year 4-5: Every other night, same regimen
  • Lifetime: Once-twice a week forever (This goes back to Dr. Feldman’s as long as you want to retain your smile and keep your teeth straight comment.)

Dr. Feldman continues, “everything in life requires maintenance”; cutting the grass, showering, eating right, haircuts, nails, so do your teeth. If you want them to stay nice and straight then you MUST wear your retainers.

Replacing Your Retainer
All of our Blue Wave orthodontists will tell you, “Don’t put off replacing your retainer, if it is damaged or lost.” The Essix retainers that we mentioned earlier, do become dull and may crack during normal wear and tear. Some patients find that they need replacing after 1, 2, or 3 years. Please call our office and we will replace them for you.
Final Thoughts
Not wearing your retainer as instructed could result in shifting of teeth and a need to re-do some of the orthodontic work, so it is much more cost-effective and easier on you to wear your retainer and replace when needed. Keep calm and smile on! ?

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