dental professional inserts dental retainer into patient's mouth

What You Should Know About Retainers After Braces


It’s the day you’ve been waiting for—you’re getting your braces off! You may think that your orthodontic treatment ends as soon as that last bracket is removed, but saying good-bye to braces (or aligners) just means you’re done with one part of your orthodontic journey and the next step is about to begin. It’s time to learn everything you need to know about retainers after braces.

Yes, You Need a Retainer After Braces

If you’re wondering, “do I need a retainer after braces?”, we can tell you right now that the answer is yes! Retainers are essential for all patients.

Your teeth are held in place by ligaments. Orthodontic treatment moves your teeth, but as soon as your braces are removed, the ligaments will want to return your teeth to their previous positions—just like a rubber band that’s stretched out will snap back when you let it go. Even once your teeth are straight, your ligaments need more time to settle in their new positions, which is why retainers are needed. Without them, you’ll experience something called orthodontic relapse and you’ll need to get braces all over again.

There Are Different Retainers to Choose From

There are two primary types of retainers: removable and fixed. Fixed retainers are wires that are bonded to the backs of your teeth in order to keep them from moving, while removable retainers are put in and taken out as needed. Hawley removable retainers have a plastic or acrylic base with a wire attached to hold the teeth, while Essix retainers are similar in form to clear aligners, but the material they’re made with is more durable.

There are pros and cons to each type of retainer; sometimes, we may have to make the decision for you based on your orthodontic needs, but in many cases, deciding which type of retainer to use is a collaborative effort and we can take your preferences into consideration.

Retainers Are for a Lifetime

There’s no definite time when you’ll be permanently done with your retainers—but there will be a point when you can wear them less frequently if you have removable retainers.

Depending on your needs, we’ll ask you to wear a Hawley or Essix retainer all day long for a period of time after your braces are removed, then have you wear your retainers at night only and, eventually, perhaps every other night. Since fixed retainers are permanently bonded to your teeth, there’s no tapering down with them—they will simply remain on your teeth 24/7.

If you don’t wear your removable retainers as directed, you’ll notice that they feel uncomfortable when you put them back in, which is a sign that your teeth have started to shift. After months of going without using them, your teeth may shift so much that your retainer no longer fits and a new one must be made. We might even recommend an active retainer, which can accomplish small movements and refinements of teeth that have started to move back into their old positions. If even more correction of an orthodontic relapse is needed we might recommend Invisalign.

Learn More About Retainers After Braces

Do you have questions about retainers? We’re happy to answer them! Contact us today at one of our three locations or ask your orthodontist at your next appointment.