Finally, you are done with your orthodontic treatment! Now, it is time to wear your retainers to prevent your teeth from shifting back. Your orthodontist will likely tell you to wear them all the time for the first 3-6 months, then nightly thereafter. The first question you might ask is, “How long do I have to wear my retainers for?” The answer is, retainers are FOR LIFE!
A common myth is that you only have to wear your retainers for 1-2 years after treatment is complete, then you are done. That is incorrect. Teeth like to shift over time, and it is a natural part of the aging process. Even people who have never had orthodontic treatment and their teeth were straight when young will have some crowding develop as they age.
Some common questions you may have are:
Why do I need to wear my retainers for life after I am done with treatment?
Your teeth are still a bit “loose” inside the bone after you are all done with treatment. Until your teeth become more stable, if you do not maintain the tooth position with retainers, they will shift back quickly. It usually takes about 3-6 months for your teeth to be stable in their new positions. During this time, you will wear your retainers day & night. After that, you will most likely need to wear your retainers every night only.
How come you can’t tell me exactly how fast my teeth will shift, if at all?
Everyone is different. Some people get cavities easier (despite rigorous home care), and some people who never seem to floss also never get cavities. It is unfair, but it is just the way it is. Therefore, some people have to wear their retainers every night for the rest of their lives to prevent relapse. Other people may only need to wear their retainers once or twice a month.
I wear my retainers every single night. How come my teeth are still shifting?
Shifting teeth are a part of the aging process. Your body’s forces are much stronger than whatever we can put in your mouth. Your retainers will keep your teeth as straight as possible. The only way to keep your teeth from shifting is by wearing braces all the time for the rest of your life. That is not recommended as it is neither healthy nor practical. Other issues, such as periodontal disease or grinding/clenching habits, can accelerate tooth movement.
My friend has a permanent retainer – can I get one?
It depends! The best way to see if you are a candidate for a permanent retainer is to ask your orthodontist. Depending on your situation, you may not be a candidate. However, having a permanent retainer does not mean your teeth will not shift. Check out our blog about permanent retainers to find out more.
So if my teeth will shift anyway, why should I get braces or aligners?
If you have crooked teeth to start, your teeth will get more and more crooked over time. This makes it more and more difficult to clean your teeth. If you don’t correct your bite, your teeth will also wear unevenly over time. However, it is just like going to the gym or working out. Once you gain a lot of muscle, you must keep working out to maintain that muscle. You might never be as “in-shape” as what you were in your 20’s, but if you had never started going to the gym, you would be much unhealthier now.