a girl smiles with braces

How Long Do You Have to Wear a Retainer?

Getting rid of braces can feel wonderful and freeing. You no longer have to be careful with your braces or go through all those wire-tightening appointments. It is like the end of an era for you. Except, you are not exactly done, are you? 

Your dentist will give you retainers to wear when your braces are removed. And no matter how much easier they are to care for than braces, you are probably wondering just how long you will have to wear your retainer

The Purpose of a Retainer

Traditional metal braces and Invisalign both work to move your teeth into a new position. Once they get there, your treatment is usually complete. However, your teeth aren’t ready to stay put quite yet. Without a little extra support, they can move. 

See, your teeth move and your soft tissue and bone follow. That means when your braces are removed, the teeth are not in a steady spot. It is going to take some more time for everything to catch up. Of course, it is important to note that teeth are always moving - as if they never forget where they came from. 

Does that mean you will have to wear your retainer for the rest of your life? Maybe. But let’s talk a little more about that. 

Types of Retainers

There are different types of retainers. For instance, permanent retainers are installed on the back of your teeth. Your orthodontist will put this retainer on and is the only one who can remove it, meaning it will be there when you eat, when you brush, when you sleep, etc. While permanent retainers aren’t uncommon, most people are handed a set of removable retainers that can be taken out when eating and brushing - and will eventually wean down the time worn.

The Stages of Retainer-Wearing

Every person is different so your orthodontist will discuss exactly how you should be wearing your retainer. In general though, many have found that wearing retainers in stages yields the best results. 


When you first get your retainer, you should be wearing it full-time, only taking it out to eat. Throughout your day and your night, your retainer should be steadily in your mouth. This is a crucial time for your teeth following your braces procedure. For some, this period may last as little as 3 to 6 months, but for others it could be equal to the amount of time you spent in braces. 

Nocturnal Use

Eventually, your orthodontist will move you into the nighttime phase of wearing your retainer. You will put them in when you go to sleep and remove them upon waking -- seven nights per week. 

Sporadic Use

Once your orthodontist feels it is time, you can start reducing the amount of time you wear your retainers, such as choosing not to worry about wearing them at all on the weekends. If you ever put your retainer on after not wearing it for a bit - and it is tight - that could be a sign your teeth are shifting and you need to start wearing it more. Contact your orthodontist for specific guidance. 

Learn More About Retainers at My Town’s Little Dentist

Whether you just had your braces removed, finished your Invisalign treatment, or have questions about retainers in general, the professional staff of My Town’s Little Dentist is here for you. 

Contact our office at (516) 226-7337 or schedule an appointment online.