Retainer Protocol

It’s Not Over, ’til It’s Over…Retention

retainersRemoving braces signals the start of the retention period of your orthodontic care. Once teeth have been moved into their desired positions, a period of time is needed to stabilize the teeth so that the surrounding bone, gums, and muscles can conform to the new dental alignment. The teeth will need support, and your cooperation in wearing retainers as directed will be important. You MUST wear your retainer exactly as you have been instructed. Otherwise your teeth may move toward their original positions, and the benefits of wearing braces will be lost. You may even need to get your braces put on again. Don’t let that happen! Wear your retainer. It’s up to you.

Once your braces are removed some minor shifting and settling of your teeth is expected. Many studies have shown the position and fit of teeth generally change throughout our lives. This process, called “late maturational changes of the face,” is just part of the aging process similar to grey hair and wrinkled skin. The amount and rate of shifting varies among individuals. This occurs with all people, even in those with perfectly straight teeth that have never had braces. Your teeth may want to move for your entire life, and only retainer wear can limit this change. That is why it is important to remember that retainers are for life for all patients, even if worn only on an occasional basis.retainers

At this time you are to wear your retainer(s) as follows:

  • While sleeping (10-12 hours per day) for 12 months, then
  • Every other night while sleeping for 6 months, then
  • Every third night while sleeping for 6 months, then,
  • As needed indefinitely…


If during any of the above times you notice any shifting of your teeth or the retainers feel “tight” (any “tightness” means that the teeth are trying to shift) increase your retainer wear to the previous amount of time for an additional month.

Since studies show that teeth can begin to shift at any time throughout life, it is recommended that you try your retainers in once a week to check for “tightness” indefinitely.  If the retainer feels “tight”, wear it at night for one month until the teeth stabilize and then return to wearing it as needed.

Your retainer is essential to maintaining your teeth into their new healthy and straight positions. Phone the office right away for an appointment to replace or repair your retainer.  Do not wait for your next scheduled appointment. This will allow us to schedule enough time to correct the problem as well as prevent potential excessive tooth movement. Although there may be a charge for replacement or repair, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to protect the investment you have made in your smile and appearance.

The retention process does take time, so be patient. You have done a great job so far. It hasn’t always been easy, but you did it anyway. Now, don’t risk losing what you and your orthodontist have achieved. Remember, your teeth need time to adapt to their new position. Give them that time. Your reward will be a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles.