Understanding Retainers

Retainers are custom-made orthodontic appliances that are usually made of wires and acrylic. They are used to hold your teeth in position after orthodontic treatment.

If you recently got your braces off or plan to get them off soon, CONGRATULATIONS! It’s a great feeling to finish with braces or Invisalign® treatment. However, that doesn’t mean you are finished taking care of your new smile!

When your orthodontic treatment is complete, the gum and bone around your teeth are not ready to keep your teeth securely in place. Retainers are needed to help hold your teeth in their final positions; those forces help stabilize the position of each tooth. Without retainers, your teeth would shift back into their old positions, undoing the progress you and your orthodontist have made! Not to mention, wasting valuable time and financial investment.

Wearing your retainers after orthodontic treatment protects your investment!

Wearing Retainers

Ideally, wearing your retainers every night for the rest of your life would be great! After all, you should want to preserve that beautiful smile that you and our orthodontists worked so hard for, right?

We understand that most patients won’t commit to every night for the rest of their lives. Dr. Igel and Dr. Chartrand recommend wearing your retainers at least 12 hours every night. If you fail to wear your retainers, the chances of your teeth drifting out of alignment are much greater. After orthodontic treatment, the bone and tissues are working hard to hold your teeth in position. Wearing your retainers at least 12 hours every night is very important to maintain your new smile. Anything less could result in movement, possibly requiring orthodontic treatment again. No one wants a do-over when retainers can prevent that!

Retainers are meant to hold your teeth in their post-orthodontic positions. If you are wearing your retainers as instructed, they should need minimal adjustments.

Do Retainers Have to Be Worn All the Time?

No — but the more you wear them, the better. Dr. Igel and Dr. Chartrand use the following guidelines for wearing retainers.

If you still have your wisdom teeth:

  • Continue to wear your retainers at least 12 hours every night. Do this (forever) to retain your beautiful smile.
  • Continue to see your dentist for regular cleanings and evaluation of your wisdom teeth. Erupting wisdom teeth can cause crowding and tooth movement.

If you no longer have your wisdom teeth:

If your wisdom teeth have never erupted or you had them removed and you are at least 19 years old, you can reduce the number of nights you wear your retainers as outlined below:

  • Wear your retainers every night for at least 12 hours for the first three (3) years after you complete your orthodontic treatment.
  • AFTER three (3) years of nightly wear, you can wear your retainers every other night for 12 hours each night for the next year.
  • If you have been faithful in wearing your retainers and your teeth have not shifted, you can reduce your retainer wear to every third night.
  • Continue with this pattern in reducing your retainer wear until you get to once a week. Never go less than once a week — forever!


Taking Care of Your Retainers

  • Always keep your retainers in the case provided when you are not wearing them. This protects them from loss or damage and keeps them away from pets, as they love to chew on them. Retainers can also pick up a lot of germs when they’re sitting out in the open. When you’re not wearing them, store them in their case.
  • Brush your retainers with toothpaste every morning to keep them clean.
  • Never boil your retainers. Boiling water is great for killing germs but can destroy your retainers. You should avoid hot water altogether, because even mild warping of the plastic elements can compromise the retainers’ treatment abilities.
  • Never bleach your retainers. It’s possible for bleach to warp plastic elements and wash out colors. It is also difficult to remove the unpleasant smell of bleach.
  • Handle with care. Falling just a few inches into a ceramic or metal sink basin can do damage to your retainers. Handle carefully to avoid costly accidents.
  • Brush and floss regularly. Keeping retainers clean in a dirty mouth is impossible. Be sure to brush and floss daily, rinse your mouth after eating, and use mouth wash as necessary.

If your retainers are well maintained, they can last for years.

We invite you to contact our team at Igel Orthodontics in Omaha, Nebraska, if you have additional questions on how to maintain your beautiful smile!

Call today at (402) 330-1152!