Teeth Retainer: How It Works, Types & Uses (2023 Guide)

After braces, wearing a retainer is critical—it ensures your teeth stay in place and your smile stays beautiful. But what is a retainer, and how does it work? This article tells you everything you need to know about retainers, including your options, how to use and care for them, and why they're so important for long-term oral health.

15 min readTeeth Retainer: How it Works, Types & Uses

Retainers are often dreaded and overlooked. But for those who need to wear braces to fix their teeth, they play a critical role in the realignment process.

A retainer is a device that holds your teeth in place after you’ve had orthodontic treatment, such as braces or Invisalign. It's made from a special type of plastic, metal, and/or wire that's custom-made to fit the unique shape of your teeth.

But how exactly does it work? And what happens if you don't wear a retainer?

This article examines everything you need to know about retainers, types, and how to use one.

What Are Tooth Retainers For, Exactly?

Tooth retainers are orthodontic appliances used to maintain teeth alignment, typically following a course of orthodontic treatment. They come in many varieties and sizes, but all retainers do essentially the same thing: keep your teeth in place, preventing further movement.

Retainers can be either fixed or removable. Fixed retainers are permanently attached to the backside of your teeth with metal wires, while removable retainers are taken out for cleaning and other activities.

Fixed retainers require minimal maintenance, while a thorough and regular cleaning regimen is essential for removable ones. Regular dental examinations should also be completed to monitor any changes in the fit or function of the retainer.

Most orthodontists recommend wearing a retainer full-time for at least six months following treatment, followed by nightly wearings every night.

Generally speaking, the longer you wear your retainer, the better your results will be, so it’s important to stick with the prescribed plan even after treatment has ended.

What Do Retainers Do?

After braces removal, you aren't out of the woods yet. Even if your teeth look perfectly straight and aligned, there’s still a chance that they can shift back to their original positions.

Retainers are designed to help keep your teeth in place by providing gentle pressure to hold them in the correct position. Since braces force your teeth into place against their natural inclination, a retainer helps to ensure that your teeth stay in their desired position.

Retainers also offer several other benefits for those with misaligned teeth:

  • Defense against tongue thrust. When swallowing or speaking, some people thrust their tongues forward. Unfortunately for those with this condition (called "tongue thrust"), the straightened teeth can shift out of place and ruin a beautiful smile.
  • Avoid teeth clenching. After you stop wearing braces or using Invisalign trays, your mouth will feel quite different. Teeth clenching is a common habit, and wearing a retainer can help prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original positions.
  • Reduce the risk of TMJ disorder. If you have teeth that are misaligned, it can cause jaw pain and headaches due to uncomfortable bite pressure. A retainer can reduce this discomfort by evenly distributing the pressure across your jawline, which can help reduce the risk of TMJ disorder.
  • Finish the job. If you wear a retainer, you might be able to get your braces off early. Since retainers can keep your teeth in their desired position, they can often carry out the last leg of the straightening process.

Retainers are also used for other purposes, such as managing a speech impediment or correcting an overbite.

In some cases, retainers can help you adjust to a new mouthpiece if you wear dentures or partials.

Types Of Retainers

There are several different types of retainers. The one you end up using will depend on the condition of your mouth, the degree of correction needed, and your preferences.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are attached to the backside of your teeth with metal wires. These retainers are meant to be worn full-time and require minimal maintenance compared to removable retainers, which need to be taken out for cleaning.

Permanent retainers are mainly used to maintain the alignment of teeth after an orthodontic treatment, such as braces. They can help keep your teeth in place and prevent them from shifting back to their previous positions, ensuring you get the best results from your orthodontic treatment.

Compared to removable retainers, permanent ones are more reliable. Since they don't require you to take them out, there's no risk of losing or misplacing them, nor is there a risk of forgetting to use them.

The main downside of permanent retainers is that they're more difficult to clean than removable ones. Just like cleaning teeth with braces, food and plaque can easily get trapped in the wires, which can lead to cavities and gum disease if not properly cleaned.

Removable Retainers

Unlike permanent retainers, removable retainers are taken out and put back in at your own convenience. Most people wear them during the day or while sleeping, but you can take them out whenever necessary.

Removable retainers are usually made of clear plastic and metal wires. They're easy to clean and care for, which makes them a great choice for many people.

The main downside of removable retainers is that they can be easily lost or misplaced if you're not careful. You'll also need to make sure that you wear it regularly in order to get the maximum benefit from it.

Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are popular types of removable retainers made from a combination of metal wires and acrylic. They are often used to hold the teeth in place after Invisalign, braces, or other orthodontic treatments.

The most distinctive feature of Hawley retainers is their custom fit, as each retainer is made to fit the individual's mouth. They are also easy to clean, as they can simply be soaked in a cleaning solution or rinsed with water.

The main disadvantage of Hawley retainers is their potential bulkiness, which can make it difficult to talk and eat while wearing them. They are also more visible than other types of retainers, so some people prefer permanent retainers behind their teeth for aesthetic purposes.

Clear Plastic Retainers

Clear plastic retainers (also called Essix retainers) are best for those looking for an inconspicuous removable option, as they are relatively comfortable and easy to wear. They are virtually invisible, so no one will even know you're wearing them.

Some Essix retainers come with additional teeth on them, acting as spacers or buttons to put teeth in place and prevent further shifting. They are lightweight and don't take up much space in your mouth, making them comfortable to wear for long hours if needed.

The main downside of clear plastic retainers is that they are not as durable as other types of retainers. Over time, they can become stained or discolored, and may need to be replaced every three years.

Some users don't particularly like the feeling of wearing clear plastic retainers, either. Since they cover every tooth, biting down can feel strange and uncomfortable.

The Difference Between Invisalign & Retainers

Invisalign and retainers are both parts of a complete orthodontic treatment system, but they are not interchangeable. They may serve a similar purpose—and Essix retainers and Invisalign aligners even look identical—but their application and usage differ.

Invisalign is a set of clear plastic aligners that are customized to fit the patient's mouth. The aligners need to be changed every two weeks, as the teeth gradually move into position. In other words, they are a popular way to straighten teeth without braces but serve the same purpose as braces.

Retainers, on the other hand, are used to maintain the new position of the teeth and prevent them from shifting back. They come in several varieties and can be either removable or permanent.

Retainers take a proactive approach to orthodontic care, protecting your teeth from moving after a treatment like Invisalign.

How Much Does A Retainer Cost?

If you wear (or wore) braces, the cost of a retainer is built into the cost of your braces. And if you have dental insurance (although one-third of people don’t), any additional cost may be covered.

Aside from that, retainers can cost anywhere from $250 to $600. The price can range depending on the type of retainer, the complexity of your case, and other factors.

The cost of retainers should always include follow-up appointments to check the fit and make sure it’s still comfortable for you. It’s also important to factor in any additional fees (for replacement retainers, etc.) that may occur during the course of treatment.

Since people can lose their removable retainer, they often opt for the permanent option to save money in the long run.

How Much Is A New Retainer Without Insurance?

On average, patients without insurance can expect to pay anywhere between $150 and $800 for a new retainer.

This depends on numerous factors, including:

  • The type of retainer
  • Your orthodontist's fees
  • Whether you opt for a removable or permanent option

It’s important to remember that some dental insurance plans won't cover replacement retainers, anyways. So some people need pay out of pocket for a new retainer, even if they have a dental insurance policy.

How Are Teeth Retainers Fitted?

When it comes to teeth retainers, there are a few things you should know before you have yours fitted. Understanding how teeth retainers work and what the fitting process looks like will help ensure that your retainer is properly fitted and gets the job done.

1. Determining The Retainer You Need

The first step in fitting your teeth retainer is determining what kind of retainer you need. Depending on the type of correction you are seeking, your dentist may recommend one type of retainer over another.

For example, if you have had braces and now want to maintain the position of your teeth and avoid further orthodontic treatment, then an Essix or Hawley retainer may be recommended for you.

But if your goal is to reduce crowding or close gaps in your smile, then an aligner tray may be more appropriate.

Typically, people choose to install a permanent retainer behind their teeth to save themselves the hassle of remembering to wear it, cleaning it, and worrying about losing it.

2. Taking Impressions Of Your Mouth

Once you have decided on which type of retainer will best help you achieve your goals, the next step involves having impressions made of your upper and lower teeth.

Your dentist will use these impressions to create a model of your mouth so they can accurately fit the retainer on each tooth individually.

The accuracy of this step is key in ensuring that the retainer fits perfectly and provides optimum dental health benefits.

3. Retainer Fitting Session

After all the pieces are ready (which usually takes about two weeks), you can go back to your dentist for the fitting.

During this appointment, your dentist will place each part of the retainer into position one at a time and make sure it fits correctly on every tooth before securing it with special adhesive cement or wires that wrap around any molars present in your mouth.

Afterward, they will ask you to test out different movements with your jaw to ensure everything is functioning correctly before sending you home with instructions on proper maintenance and wearing habits regarding your new appliance.

What Are The Advantages Of Using A Retainer?

Using a retainer after orthodontic treatment helps not only retain the results of your treatment, but it also provides a number of other benefits.

  1. Straighten teeth. By wearing a teeth retainer, you can effectively straighten your teeth and give yourself an aesthetically pleasing smile. This is ideal for people who want to improve the appearance of their smile without getting braces.
  2. Improve speech. If your teeth are misaligned or crooked, it can interfere with how you articulate certain sounds when communicating. A retainer helps straighten teeth and improve speech quality by correcting any irregularities that may be present in the way your mouth functions.
  3. Prevent teeth from moving. Teeth retainers help keep your newly aligned teeth stay in place by providing gentle pressure to ensure they stay where they should be. This prevents your teeth from shifting out of alignment over time due to changes in your jawbone structure or lifestyle habits like nighttime grinding or clenching.
  4. Minimal maintenance. Unlike traditional braces, retainers are low maintenance and don't require frequent visits to the dentist to check on their progress or make adjustments as needed. The only maintenance required is cleaning it regularly with toothpaste and water, ensuring its longevity.
  5. Comfort. With advances in technology, modern retainers are designed with comfort in mind, meaning they won’t cause any pain or discomfort while you wear them throughout the day (or night).

What Happens If I Don’t Wear My Retainer?

Beyond the advantages of wearing your retainer, there are plenty of reasons to adhere to your dentist’s instructions when it comes to wearing and caring for your retainer.

  1. Teeth may move out of place. When you don’t wear your retainer, the newly aligned teeth may start to shift and move out of place. Research shows that around 70% of people who don’t wear their retainer after two years need additional realignment ten years later.
  2. Alignment problems. Not wearing your retainer can lead to misalignment problems over time. This can cause difficulty chewing or speaking, as well as making it difficult for future retainers and braces to do their job properly should they be needed down the line.
  3. Extra cost. Skipping out on wearing your retainer means you will have to spend more money in the long run when getting one that fits your now changed mouth shape or taking other corrective measures due to the shift in alignment.
  4. Oral hygiene problems. Without a retainer in place, food particles and plaque can accumulate on your teeth which can lead to an increased risk of cavities and gum disease in the long run if not monitored closely by a dentist or orthodontist.
  5. Stress on jaw joints. Not wearing a retainer can put additional pressure on jaw joints due to misalignment, leading to potential discomfort and other issues associated with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).

How Long Will I Have To Wear A Retainer?

If you want to improve your smile, it’s important to understand that everyone is different and the length of time you will need to wear a retainer can vary greatly depending on the initial condition of your teeth, as well as any other factors such as age and type of braces used.

In general, it’s recommended that patients wear their retainers for a minimum of six months after their braces come off. This allows the teeth to adjust properly and shifts in alignment can be better monitored over time.

After this initial period, you may opt for wearing your retainer periodically throughout the day or at night while you sleep. You will typically wear it every day for at least some of the time for the next two years.

Your dentist or orthodontist will likely recommend keeping up with regular check-up appointments so they can assess your progress and make sure everything is progressing correctly without any issues. If any further treatment is needed, they can advise on what steps are best for addressing them at that time.

For the rest of your life, you may need to wear your retainer on and off as needed. This means that even if you don’t think you need it, it’s wise to occasionally wear the retainer at least a few times per week just in case.

Can Retainers Move Teeth Back?

The answer is yes. Retainers can be used to help move teeth back into their original positions by gently applying pressure to the teeth over time.

Retainers are most commonly used in conjunction with braces or other orthodontic treatments, as they help maintain the desired alignment after an initial treatment period. For example, if you had braces and your teeth were successfully aligned, a retainer would be used to keep them in that position.

Retainers can also be useful for moving teeth which have shifted out of place due to age or lifestyle changes such as chewing habits or jaw clenching.

The degree of movement will depend on how much space there is between the current and desired tooth positions. But in some cases it may be enough to correct minor misalignment issues.

How Do I Take Care Of My Retainer?

If you’ve just gotten braces or have recently chosen to use a dental retainer, it’s important to learn how to properly take care of your retainer in order maintain good oral hygiene and ensure it remains effective. Here are some simple tips for taking good care of your retainer:

  1. Clean your retainer regularly. It’s recommended that you rinse off your retainer with warm water or a gentle soap after every wear. This will help remove bacteria and plaque that may accumulate on the device.

  2. Soak it overnight. Make sure to also soak your retainer in either denture cleaner or a cup of water with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide at least once a week, as this helps eliminate any odors and keeps it from drying out.

  3. Avoid extreme temperatures. Both very hot and cold temperatures can cause damage to retainers, so make sure to keep them out of direct sunlight and avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures.

  4. Store it securely. Finally, always store your retainer in its case when not in use and keep it away from small children or pets who could potentially damage it.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to maintain the condition of your teeth retainers and keep them working effectively over time.

Teeth Whitening And Retainers

Whitening teeth with braces usually isn't an option—the brackets and other components of the braces can obstruct access to your teeth, making it difficult for any whitening solution to reach all surfaces.

The only way you'll be able to whiten your teeth while straightening them is with Invisalign trays.

But once your braces come off, the good news is that you can whiten your teeth with teeth whitening kits or other products as long as you’re wearing your retainer.

Can I Wear My Retainer With Whitening Strips?

Although you cannot use whitening strips with braces, you can use them while wearing a retainer. As long as you aren't actually wearing your retainer at the time of application, whitening strips can be safely used.

Since whitening strips only take up around 30 minutes of your time, they can fit into your regular dental routine in the morning or at night.

Does Whitening Gel Ruin Retainers?

Teeth whitening is safe when used as directed, even if you are required to wear a retainer. As long as you remove your retainer before applying the whitening gel, everything should be fine.

The only concern, then, would be the whitening gel itself.

Though most teeth whitening products are safe to use on natural teeth, they can be harmful to retainers, as the bleaching agents in them may weaken the bonds that hold the retainer together. They can also discolor your retainer and make it more difficult to keep clean.

If you do decide to use a teeth whitening product, it’s important to wait at least a few days before putting in or taking out your retainer in order to avoid any damage. It is also best to rinse off your retainer with warm water or gentle soap after every use in order to reduce any potential staining caused by the whitening product.

Does Wearing A Retainer Make Your Teeth Yellow?

Once you wear your retainer, you may wonder whether or not your teeth will be negatively impacted from doing so.

The short answer is no. Wearing a retainer does not make your teeth yellow. Still, retainers can discolor over time due to build-up of plaque and bacteria, and they may give off an unpleasant odor.

Retainers are typically made out of either plastic or metal, and if you have a clear plastic retainer it can become slightly yellow due to buildup of saliva and food particles on the surface. Over time, these particles can cause staining that won’t come off easily with brushing.

The best way to prevent this is to rinse your retainer regularly with warm water and gentle soap, as well as soak it in denture cleaner or hydrogen peroxide at least once a week.

It’s also important to note that if you wear braces for an extended period of time before getting a retainer, the residue from the brackets may remain on your teeth even after they are removed. If this is the case, you may need additional teeth whitening in order to restore your teeth’s natural color.

Can I Whiten My Teeth While Wearing Retainers?

Although you can whiten your teeth while undergoing orthodontic treatment, you should not attempt to whiten your teeth with a retainer in your mouth. The whitening agents in most products can damage the retainer and make it less effective in keeping your teeth straight.

Instead, wait until after your orthodontic treatment is complete or your retainer is removed before exploring teeth whitening options.

How Do You Clean Retainers After Whitening With Them?

Deep cleaning your tooth retainers is an important part of keeping them in good condition and ensuring that they last a long time, especially if you're whitening your teeth.

Here are some tips on how to properly deep clean your tooth retainers:

  • Soak the retainer in lukewarm water and an antibacterial mouthwash or baking soda solution. Let it sit for 10 minutes before brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Use a specialized retainer cleaner like Efferdent, available at most drugstores, according to the directions on the package label.
  • Rinse the retainer thoroughly with warm water afterwards and store it in a cool place.
  • Take apart your removable retainers to clean them more thoroughly. This can be done by hand or with specialized tools designed specifically for retainer cleaning purposes. Be sure to put them back together before reinserting them into your mouth.

Do Retainers Weaken Enamel?

Retainers are designed to help straighten and strengthen teeth, but some people worry that they could potentially weaken enamel. The truth is that retainers, when used properly, should not weaken your enamel. If worn too often, it could potentially cause some damage due to the constant pressure put on the teeth by the retainer.

That said, enamel erosion can occur from acidic foods and drinks as well as poor dental hygiene habits. And when you wear a retainer, excess bacteria can grow underneath it in these instances.

It’s important to practice good oral hygiene while wearing your retainer such as brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. Limiting your intake of acidic foods and drinks will also help protect your enamel from damage.

Want to learn more? These are the questions our customers ask us most.

What Happens If My Retainer Breaks?

If your retainer breaks, it is important to seek professional help from your dental provider. Broken retainers can cause permanent shifting of the teeth, making it necessary for you to get a new retainer or another orthodontic device. In some cases, broken retainers can also cause pain and discomfort in your mouth, making fast replacement essential.

Many dental providers offer same-day emergency appointments to replace retainers, but it may take up to two weeks or longer before they are able to fit you with a new one. During this time, be sure to avoid any hard or chewy foods as these can damage your teeth further and make the process of replacing the retainer lengthier and more complicated.

What Happens If I Lose My Retainer?

If you lose your retainer, your dental practitioner will be able to replace it with a new one. Depending on the type of retainer you had, the replacement process may involve remaking the mold of your teeth and creating a new device for you. This can be a lengthy process and can cost a considerable amount of money, depending on your insurance plan or payment terms.

Can A Retainer Straighten My Teeth?

Yes, a retainer can help straighten and align your teeth. Retainers are generally prescribed by orthodontists as part of a treatment plan to correct misaligned teeth or improve the alignment of teeth after braces have been removed.

During treatment, retainers are worn for varying lengths of time depending on the patient's needs.

Retainers can also be used to fix minor orthodontic issues such as gaps between teeth, crossbite and overbite.

In some cases, wearing a retainer is all that is needed for straightening the teeth, but it is important to consult with your orthodontist to determine the best course of action for correcting any misalignment issues you may have.

My Retainer No Longer Fits. What Should I Do?

If your retainer no longer fits, it won't protect your teeth from moving in the same way a properly fitting retainer would. It’s important to visit your orthodontist or dentist immediately in order to get it adjusted.

In some cases, orthodontists may be able to adjust the retainer with minor modifications, while other instances require them to create a new one entirely.

Unfortunately, the mouth is constantly changing and there isn't much you can do about the retainer not fitting. Be sure to follow your orthodontist's instructions for proper use and wear of the device in order to get the most out of it.

Why Does My Removable Retainer Smell?

Especially if you've been using your retainer every day, it’s important to clean it regularly. Bacteria, plaque, and food particles can build up on the retainer, causing an unpleasant smell.

You should deep clean your retainer at least once per week. You can do this by soaking it in lukewarm water and an antibacterial mouthwash or baking soda solution for 10 minutes before brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Are Permanent Retainers For Life?

One of the main advantages to permanent retainers is that they are designed to last for a long time. As long as the device remains in good condition, it can provide lifelong protection and stability for your teeth. This means that you don't need to worry about replacing it periodically or making any adjustments.

Still, if your permanent retainer does become damaged or worn out, you will need to visit your orthodontist in order to have a new one fitted.

How Long Should A Permanent Retainer Last?

With proper care, your permanent retainer should last up to 20 years or longer. If you neglect proper dental care, you may need to replace it sooner. Be sure to follow your orthodontist's instructions for proper use and wear of the device in order to get the most out of it.

Can You Get An MRI With A Permanent Retainer?

If you have removable retainers, you should take them out before an MRI. That said, you shouldn't have a problem getting an MRI with permanent retainers. In most cases, the dental fillings and permanent appliances won't impact your MRI significantly or at all.

What Can You Not Eat With A Permanent Retainer?

It is important to avoid sticky and crunchy foods when wearing a permanent retainer, as these can cause the wire to bend or break.

These include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Hard candy
  • Corn on the cob
  • Caramel and taffy
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts and seeds

It is also important to avoid sugary snacks or drinks when wearing a permanent retainer, as these can put you at risk for cavities.

Can You Chew Gum With A Permanent Retainer?

We advise against chewing gum with a permanent retainer, as sticky and chewy substances can damage the wires and brackets of your retainer. Sticky food items such as gum can also get stuck between the wires and teeth of your retainer, making it difficult to clean and potentially cause damage.

Can Dentists Remove Permanent Retainers?

Your dentist will be able to remove your permanent retainer by cutting the wire and releasing the brackets. In some cases, they may be able to adjust the device if it no longer fits correctly.

Be sure to follow up with your orthodontist or dentist after having a permanent retainer removed in order to discuss any misalignment issues that have arisen since its removal.

Can I Superglue My Permanent Retainer?

You should not attempt to superglue your permanent retainer, as it can lead to damage or decay of the teeth and gums. If your retainer is loose or a wire is broken, contact your orthodontist instead, so they can properly adjust the device.

How Long Do I Wear A Retainer After Braces?

For the rest of your life, you'll wear your retainer at least part-time to keep your teeth in their new, straightened position. Immediately following your braces treatment, you'll need to wear the retainer full time for several months. After that, you can transition to wearing it part-time (typically at night) and continue doing so for years.

How Long Does It Take To Get A New Retainer?

From the time your orthodontist takes impressions of your teeth to the time you receive your new retainer, it can take up to two weeks. During this time, your orthodontist will send the impressions off to a laboratory where they will create the device for you.

Are Metal Retainers Better Than Plastic?

Compared to their plastic counterparts, metal retainers are much more durable and long-lasting. Metal retainers also offer better resistance to discoloration, staining, and warping than plastic ones do.

That said, if you have a tender mouth or experience discomfort with metal retainers, you may opt for the comfort of plastic retainers instead.

When Can I Stop Wearing My Retainers?

We recommend that you wear your retainers at least part-time (typically at night) for the rest of your life in order to maintain a straight smile. It's never a good idea to stop wearing your retainer entirely, which is why many people opt for a permanent solution.

Should I Wear My Old Retainer If It Hurts?

Some pain when wearing your retainer is normal, especially if it is newly fitted. But if you've gone a long time without wearing it, pain could indicate that your retainer no longer fits correctly. If your retainer is damaged or no longer fits, it's best to replace it rather than force it into your mouth.

Can I Still Wear My Retainer If My Teeth Have Shifted?

If your teeth have shifted slightly, you might notice tightness or discomfort when wearing your retainer. This wouldn't necessarily mean you need to worry, but it is worth mentioning to your orthodontist at your next appointment.

If your retainer causes significant pain, however, it may indicate that your teeth have shifted significantly and may require further orthodontic treatment (i.e., a new retainer).

What Are The Effects Of Not Wearing A Retainer After Braces?

Potential risks of not wearing your retainer after braces removal include:

  • Teeth may start to shift out of their alignment
  • Increase in time and money spent on orthodontic treatments
  • Difficulty speaking and eating
  • Unwanted changes in facial structure and smile
  • Risk of gum disease and tooth decay due to misalignment

How Can I Cope With Retainer Discomfort Or Pain?

Some pain while first wearing your retainer is normal. Here are a few things you can do to manage it:

  • Place cool packs or cold food on the retainer to reduce swelling
  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation
  • Wear the retainer for shorter periods of time, if possible
  • Rinse your mouth out with a salt water solution
  • Avoid hard foods that may put too much pressure on the teeth/retainer
  • Speak to your orthodontist about switching to a different type of retainer

Can I Stop Wearing My Retainer After 2 Years?

Once you have a retainer, you should wear it for life, although you can transition to wearing it part-time after the first few months. Stopping entirely may lead to relapsing and your teeth shifting back out of alignment. We recommend that you continue wearing your retainer part-time for years afterward in order to maintain a straight smile.

How Long Do Permanent Bottom Retainers Last?

As long as you keep up with regular dental hygeine, your permanent bottom retainer can last for years. It's important to let your orthodontist know if anything changes with the fit of the retainer, as this may indicate that your teeth are shifting out of alignment and require further treatment.

Can I Wear My Retainer After Not Wearing It For A Month?

After just one month, it is unlikely that your teeth have moved enough to require a new retainer. Still, you should to monitor the fit and comfort of your retainer over time as your teeth may slowly shift out of alignment. If you experience any major discomfort or pain when putting the retainer in, consult with your orthodontist.

Are Retainers Supposed To Hurt?

Retainers might be uncomfortable when first put in, since the teeth will still be shifting and adjusting to the retainer. Anything beyond slight discomfort or tightness, however, indicates that the retainer no longer fits properly and needs to be replaced. Usually, you will notice whether or not your retainer fits properly fairly quickly.

Are Retainers Better Than Braces?

Retainers and braces aren't exactly comparable—the former is used to maintain teeth alignment while the latter is used to actively shift them into place. For most patients, braces are a more effective and direct way to straighten their teeth. Retainers help keep teeth in place once they have been corrected with braces or another treatment, but are not as effective on their own.

What Age Can You Get Retainers?

Technically, you can get a retainer at any age. Most people get braces in their early teens, and begin wearing retainers shortly after. Generally, retainers supercede braces and are used to maintain the correct alignment of teeth.

Can You Smile With Retainers?

Although some may feel insecure about the metal wiring, we encourage you to smile confidently with your retainers on. With time, the retainer should feel natural and you may even forget it's there. After dealing with braces for so long, wearing a retainer is a small price to pay for the perfect smile.

Is It OK To Wear Retainers Only At Night?

After the initial few months of retainer usage, you can transition to wearing it part-time. We recommend that you wear the retainer for at least a few hours per day and overnight. This helps keep your teeth aligned and prevents them from shifting back out of place.

Can I Drink Water With Retainers?

There is no issue with drinking water while wearing a retainer. Since water is a clear fluid with no sugar or chemicals, it won't damage the retainer. Some patients may even find that the cool, refreshing water helps to reduce swelling and discomfort that can come with retainer wear.

What Happens If You Don't Wear Your Retainer For 3 Days?

Three days is not long enough for your teeth to start shifting out of alignment. But making a daily habit out of wearing your retainer is the only way to ensure that your teeth stay in their corrected position. After the first few months, it's ok to cut back on retainer wear, but you should continue wearing it part-time for years afterwards.

Can You Put Toothpaste In Your Retainer?

Toothpaste (and anything abrasive) will scratch and damage the plastic or metal of your retainer, so we advise you to never put toothpaste in your retainer. Instead, use a soft bristled brush and some non-abrasive soap to clean your retainer every day. This will help keep bacteria from building up and causing odors or discoloration.

Can I Drink Coffee With Retainers?

Before drinking hot liquids (including coffee), you should take out your retainers first. The heat can cause the retainer to warp or bend, making it difficult for them to fit properly and giving you a poor fit. To be safe, take out your retainers before drinking coffee or any other hot beverage.