Do I Really Need to Wear My Retainer?

Dr. Michael Stosich
Dear Dr. S.,
I just had my braces removed and it was such an exciting day! I love the way my teeth look, but I don’t love my retainer. My mom says I have to wear it or my teeth will move back. Is she right, or just trying to scare me?
Sincerely,
Amy P.

Dr. Michael Stosich

Dear Amy,
I promise your mom isn’t lying. Wearing a retainer is an important part of your orthodontic treatment!

Your treatment doesn’t end the day your braces come off. That’s because just your teeth have moved to their ideal locations, that doesn’t mean they’re ready to stay there on their own. The ligament and bone in your mouth is a bit pliable, which helped the teeth move to their new locations. But they don’t harden around the teeth in those new spots right away. It takes some time for the teeth to become stabilized, and the retainer will hold them in place while the ligament and bone are resetting.

If you forget to wear your retainer, and your bone and ligaments aren’t reset, your teeth could go right back to where they were before your treatment began. Don’t let all that hard work you put in while in braces go to waste. Remember to wear your retainer!
Sincerely,
Dr. S.


Stephen, the patient
Dear Dr. S.,I just got my braces off and my orthodontist told me I have to wear my retainer all day, every day for six months! My best friend recently had his braces taken off, but he only had to wear his retainer for three months. That’s not fair!
Sincerely,
Derek L.
Dr. Michael Stosich
Dear Derek,
Unfortunately, when it comes to orthodontics, not everything is fair or equal. Every orthodontic case is different. For example, I’ve had some patients whose teeth moved quickly, and the patient was very compliant, and their braces only took six months. Other patients haven’t responded as well to treatment, and weren’t as good at following all of their guidelines, and their braces have taken a year.The same is true for retainers. Sometimes, the surrounding tissue secures the teeth in place much quicker. Also, some orthodontists have different approaches. Some caution a better safe than sorry approach. I recommend following your orthodontist’s instructions because he will have all the knowledge about your particular case. If you have concerns or questions, be sure to discuss them with your orthodontist. To ensure the best results, do not suspend retainer wear until after speaking with your orthodontist.
Sincerely,
Dr. S.

Dr. Michael Stosich
Dear Dr. S.,I was so excited when my orthodontist told me my braces would be removed soon. But I’m not excited about having to wear a retainer! They seem bulky and annoying – my teeth are already in the right place, so can’t I just skip that phase?
Sincerely,
Katie B.
Dr. Michael Stosich

Dear Katie,
Unfortunately, no, you can’t skip wearing your retainer – at least not if you want to maintain that beautiful smile you’ve got now.

Your teeth can take up to a year or so to stabilize after the braces have moved them. And that means skipping the retainer can lead to a higher risk of relapse.

Retainers have come a long way. While removable retainers do have a wire that runs around the teeth, it will be much less visible than your braces were. It can take a couple of days to get used to it, so I always recommend practicing speaking with it in the first day or so that you have it. You’ll notice a bit of an increase in saliva production, which is normal, but may take a bit of getting used to.

There are several types of retainers available, so there is sure to be one that can best fit into your lifestyle. Talk to your orthodontist about your concerns and he or she can help you choose the ideal one for you.
Sincerely,
Dr. S.

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AUTHOR: Michael Stosich

Michael S. Stosich, DMD, MS, MS, is a specialist orthodontist for children and adults with subspecialty expertise in robotically assisted orthodontics. Dr. Stosich serves as the orthodontic director at the University of Chicago's cleft lip and palate clinic and craniofacial anomalies clinic, which treats complex pediatric craniofacial anomalies.