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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How long should I wear my retainer after getting braces off?

    My orthodontist didn't really tell me how long I would be wearing my retainer… he just said as long as possible in order to make sure my teeth stay straight. What is the average number of months/years people wear their retainer? What is recommended?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 92


    Dr Paul Coceancig

    Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

    I am a specialist oral & maxillofacial surgeon based in Sydney and Newcastle, Australia. I graduated in medicine from the University of Otago, and in … View Profile

    Sometimes teeth are artificially moved by orthodontics to new positions that fall outside of their natural equilibrium ideal. Once the forces that moved teeth are removed, these teeth have a natural tendency to return to their natural equilibration position, and thus may again become “crooked”.

    Thus most orthodontists will use “orthodontic retainers” to help teeth remain in their new position. This allows you then to remove the original orthodontic brackets and wires that originally moved and aligned the teeth to their new positions.

    The art of good orthodontics is to predict where teeth can be orthodontically moved and remain stable, and without the need for prolonged retention devices.

    After all, retention devices are a form of braces anyway. Removable retainers are cumbersome to wear, and also to chew with. Some orthodontists prefer using “fixed” retainers, which are wires that are glued to the bakcs of teeth, and hold front teeth together. Teh wires prevent the teeth from drifting apart or together, or becoming crooked again.

    “Fixed” orthodontic appliances are difficult to clean around, and can more easily collect stagnant plaque and calculus leading to gum disease.

    Remember, that teeth that are moved into natural positions, are also naturally stable, and do not require long periods of “retainer” wear.

  • 67


    Typically you wear them full time for a few months to a year, then every night for a few months to a year. After that you can wear them a few times a week. Trust me when I tell you, if you do not continue to wear them, your teeth will move back to where they came from! I have patients in their 20's that tell me they wish they had worn their retainer like they were supposed to because their teeth have started moving around again.

    If you wait too long to wear it, it may be tight because your teeth have already shifted slightly. That will go away, because you teeth will move back to where they are supposed to go. If you wait way too long to wear them, you will never be able to get them back in because your teeth have moved to the point where it will not even fit.

    This is why you see so many adults with braces…either because they didn't wear their retainers like thye were supposed to, or they didn't get braces as an adolescent.
      So the simple answer is … as long as possible even years . Orthodontic work has a tendency to relapse ..or slightly collapse . Obviously if the plate does not fit anymore…get a new plate immediately…it is proof that the teeth have moved …you need to limit this by getting your new plate straight away .

  • 39


    Dr Barbara Szylkarski has 18 years experience in private practice dentistry for adults and children. She has also worked alongside one of brisbanes renowned prosthodontists, … View Profile

    I once asked an Orthodontist that exact question, as I am often asked the same question on a daily basis.   His reply was very simple: “for the rest of your life”.  It does sound excessive, but over the years I have seen a lot of relapse (where the teeth start to move after the braces come off).  This relapse occurs particularly to the lower front teeth which start to become crowded again and to the upper front teeth where the gaps that were closed with braces start to open again.  This is when it is the most noticeable and the most disappointing, so treatment is sort.

    Within the first year after getting your braces off a full clear mouthguard style retainer is often worn , but less with time.  A fine wire can also be permanently cemented behind the upper and lower teeth.  Today there are  hygienic, safe and non-destructive wire designs that mean you will be able to maintain good dental hygiene.  This would be preferable, as there is no panic if you lose your full retainer or it wears out.  Returning to the Orthodontist yearly for the rest of your life to get a new full retainer may be somewhat impractical.  The cemented wires have been known to occasionally  break after years of service, but are easily and quickly repaired or replaced.

  • 28


    Becky Johnson

    HealthShare Member

    Hi i just recently gotten my braces off, can i just wear my retainer when i get home instead of school? I start at 8 and end at 2 thats about seven hours when you add the extra minutes. I would wear it for the rest of the day and throughout the night. 

  • 13


    Dr Wijey was born in Sydney, and then moved to the Gold Coast, Queensland, where he graduated from Griffith University in Dentistry in 2009. At … View Profile

    Unless the muscular causes of crooked teeth are fixed, retainers must be used for life.

    Little et al (1981) is the most authoritative study on orthodontic realpse; it found that only 10% of cases were ‘clinically acceptable’ after 20 yrs.

    This obviously means that 90% of cases are clinically unacceptable after 20 yrs.

  • 18


    In 2000 I graduated from the University of Sydney with Honours. I have worked in Country, General Family, Cosmetic Dentistry, Orthodontic and Dental Implant practices, … View Profile

    Unfortunately the modern thinking is we retain teeth forever after orthodontics.  All my patients that I carry orthodontics out on have at least a set of clear retainers top and bottom, which they should wear at night for the rest of their life and they should have them repalced every two to three years.  I will also often add a wire to behind the bottom teeth and if room behind the top teeth.

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