How Long Do You Have to Wear Retainers?

How long do you have to wear retainers

How Long Do You Have to Wear Retainers?

The precise duration needed to wear retainers in order to maintain your new smile varies according to your treatment. In most cases, the process takes at least four to six months. There are, however, a variety of ways retainers can be used during this process. Permanent retainers or removable retainers can be used to help maintain your new smile, and the choice lies largely with what your orthodontist recommends. 

We’ll go over more details below about how the duration of retainer wear changes according to different circumstances and preferred materials.

Do You Have to Wear Retainers Forever?

Retainers are most important to wear all the time in the first few months after your clear aligners treatment is completed. This is because the process of realigning your teeth with clear braces and other orthodontist tools tend to make the bone soft and malleable. Once the teeth have been realigned, it’s easy for them to slip back to their original place. Retainers prevent exactly that from happening so you don’t end up wasting any of the money spent on your orthodontic treatment.

Children have it a little easier than adults do when it comes to keeping teeth in the proper shape. Once the bone hardens around the realigned teeth, it’s more likely to stay that way. Because adult jaws are much stronger, they have a greater chance of relapse and misalignment. 

Regardless of clear braces, our teeth tend to shift over time as we age. Wearing a retainer as an adult can help keep a smile in place for years to come, so in some cases, it’s recommended to wear a retainer every night for the rest of your life. For children, a retainer can achieve a more permanent smile when worn for at least 1 year.

How Should I Care for My Retainers?

The removeable nature of Hawley and plastic retainers makes them straightforward to clean. It’s recommended to brush out your teeth and removable retainers with tap water after every meal. You can clean it more thoroughly with a specific retainer cleaner or ask your orthodontist.

Fixed retainers tend to present challenges when you floss your teeth for a proper cleaning, but you can ask your dentist or orthodontist for help in finding the best technique to clean your teeth with a fixed retainer.

How Long Should I Wear Retainers a Day?

As mentioned above, it’s important to wear your retainers constantly during the first 3 – 6 months after the completion of clear braces treatment. If you don’t do this, it’s easy for your teeth to relapse and you’ll lose all the benefits of your orthodontic treatment. Beyond this, how long you should wear a retainer also depends on the type of retainer you use. There are a few different options your orthodontist may recommend depending on your treatment and circumstances:

How Many Hours Should I Wear My Retainers?

While there’s no hard and fast number because every situation and treatment is different, you should expect to wear retainers for at least 22 hours a day in the first 3 – 6 months following aligners treatment. After this period of time, wearing your retainers overnight should help keep your teeth aligned properly.

Permanent Retainers

Also called bonded retainers, fixed retainers or lingual wires. Permanent retainers are sometimes suggested by orthodontists if you have difficulty handling removable retainers. You’ll often hear about them used for the bottom teeth to help keep everything in place. Just as the name implies, permanent retainers don’t need to be taken on and off, but they can be difficult to maintain (especially if the wire snaps or debonds) and may potentially cause tartar and plaque buildup.

Removable Retainers

You can find both Hawley and clear plastic retainers that are easily removed — typically for eating and brushing teeth. Hawley retainers are made of thin metal wire and plastic (or acrylic) that is shaped to fit inside of your mouth. They’re not always popular on account of being visible, but they can last for years when cared for properly and will serve to keep teeth straight as long as you are able to wear it for as long as an orthodontist recommends.


Clear plastic retainers are specially molded to fit the new position of your teeth and offer the same kind of support in keeping your teeth in place. On the plus side, they’re virtually invisible and less bulky than Hawley retainers. If you’d like to experience clear retainers without having to visit the orthodontist’s office, you can check out our clear retainers or click here to learn more about how you can save 65% on getting straighter teeth.

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