After your braces are removed, your orthodontist will advise you to wear your retainer consistently – usually every night for about a year. You can then reduce wearing them to a few nights per week or even less, depending on your teeth.
If you go a few weeks without your retainer, it can cause your teeth to subtly shift. This is normal and why most orthodontists advise wearing them at night.
1. It Keeps Your Teeth in Place
A retainer made of clear plastic or polyurethane is custom-made to fit comfortably inside your mouth, and is barely noticeable when you’re wearing it. Some teeth retainers are even custom-made with a picture of your child’s favorite TV or book character, which can make it more fun to wear and reduce the risk that they’ll lose or misplace it.
After braces or Invisalign treatment, patients are instructed to wear their retainer 22 out of 24 hours each day (taking it out only when they’re eating or brushing). Retainers help prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original positions, which could affect the results of your orthodontic treatment and increase the likelihood that you’ll need additional orthodontic work in the future.
While it may seem difficult to remember to wear your retainer, doing so is crucial to preserving the results of your orthodontic treatment. If you need help keeping track of your retainer, try writing a reminder on your phone or leaving it in an easy-to-remember place, such as the bathroom sink.
2. It Prevents Jaw Pain
A retainer can also help with speech impediments, improving the tongue placement needed to pronounce certain letters. It can even improve chewing, which helps the body absorb nutrients more effectively.
When teeth are straightened, it takes time for the bone, muscle, and gum tissue to adapt to their new positions. If you don’t wear your retainer during this transition, your teeth could shift back to their old alignment.
When this happens, you’ll experience pain and discomfort in your jaw, head, and neck, which can make it difficult to focus on your work or schoolwork. To avoid this, it’s important to remember to wear your retainer every night. You can remind yourself to do this by keeping it in a visible spot, such as on your nightstand or next to your toothbrush. You should also clean it regularly to remove food particles and kill bacteria. Some types of retainers can be cleaned with toothpaste, but others may need to be soaked in mouthwash or denture cleaner.
3. It Helps You Sleep Better
If you’re missing out on all the benefits of wearing a retainer overnight because it keeps slipping out of place, there are some simple steps that you can take to remedy the issue. First, try bringing it into your sleep hygiene routine, such as keeping it somewhere that you will see it before bed. This could mean setting an alarm or putting it on the night stand beside your toothbrush.
Another reason you may be losing your retainer is that you’re not cleaning it properly. You should rinse your retainer with cool water every time you brush your teeth and clean it with WhiteFoam or similar cleaners at least twice a day. It is also important to avoid soaking your retainer in mouthwash, as this can cause it to warp or crack.
Finally, it is best to only keep your retainer in your mouth or its case when you’re not wearing it. Leaving it anywhere else leaves it susceptible to damage, loss or even bacteria buildup.
4. It Helps You Avoid Bruxism
It will take a while for your jaw, teeth, and surrounding tissues to fully adjust to the changes caused by your orthodontic treatment. If you stop wearing your retainer too soon, your teeth could start to shift back into their old positions, ruining all of the hard work that went into straightening them.
If you have a retainer, it’s important to wear it every night unless your dentist instructs you otherwise. You can also help avoid bruxism by practicing relaxation techniques during the day to deal with stress, listening to soothing music before bed, or taking a warm bath. Your doctor may recommend medications to reduce anxiety or address underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the problem, such as GERD or sleep apnea.
You can choose from permanent or removable retainers. Removable retainers are easier to keep track of since you can take them out before eating or brushing your teeth. However, it’s important not to skip nights with a removable retainer because the more often you forget or misplace it, the more your teeth will have time to slip out of place.