Will Teeth Move If I Don’t Wear a Retainer for 7 Hours a Day?


Orthodontic patients tend to get excited at the thought of getting their braces off or being finished wearing clear aligners. You just want to enjoy how you look and your new straight smile. That joy can end with disappointment when your orthodontist hands you a retainer.

Forgetting to wear your retainer for a day or two won’t make much of a difference in your teeth. The problem with that is that once you stop wearing it for a couple of days, it can become a habit to not wear it. You get used to not wearing a retainer and forget to use it more often. Doing this enough times will cause your teeth to shift back to how they looked before you got braces or aligners.

Wearing a retainer after the primary part of your orthodontic treatment is over is part of the process. Your orthodontist will tell you how many hours a day you should wear it. It could be different for everyone.

Your orthodontist will instruct you to wear your retainer for 22 hours a day when you first get it. That will be the ritual for three to six months.

Then, you will get a retainer to wear nighttime gear. You will need to wear that in the evenings as well as when you sleep. That will be the routine for two years. After that, you can wear your retainer only while you sleep.

Your retainer plays an important role in your orthodontic experience. Teeth move regularly throughout life even for adults and for those who never wore braces. However, those who wear braces have forced their teeth into a new position recently. Your teeth will want to move back to how they were originally. They are more vulnerable to moving back the first few weeks after your braces or aligners come off. The retainer prevents them from moving.

Patients Excuses for Not Wearing Retainers

Orthodontists have heard it all about why their patients fail to use their retainers. Many forget to put it in after meals or brushing. Some think it’s a hassle or don’t like the way it feels. Retainers can get lost, warp, or break and the patient just puts off getting it replaced.

The problem with stopping wearing a retainer is you can’t just suddenly decide to wear it again. Your teeth have moved since the last time you’ve worn it and it will no longer fit. Trying to force an old retainer in your mouth can damage your teeth and gums.

What Do You Do?

Those who haven’t worn their retainer for several months, who lost it, or those whose retainers were damaged or broken should make an orthodontist appointment. An exam will show how your teeth have shifted, whether they’ve gone back to their old places, and what should be done.

Your orthodontist will likely take digital photos and do impressions that can be used to create a new retainer. They may also advise to go back to braces or aligners if the shifting is substantial.

There are orthodontic options available that will speed up the process the second time. Two are Invisalign Lite or Invisalign Express. This round of treatment can be done in an incredibly short time frame like weeks or months.

Options to Keep the Retainer Habit

Many people choose to wear their retainers at night when they sleep. It’s an easy solution because you can make putting in your retainer part of your nighttime routine. It’s a time when no one sees you and it’s easy to wear it for seven or eight hours.

Another solution is to make a routine of meals. Eat, brush, and put in your retainer. Once you do the same routine multiple times, it becomes more natural and you won’t forget.

Keep in mind that an orthodontist will want you to wear it both night and day for the first four months after your braces or aligners are removed. Orthodontists say you should wear a retainer for at least 10 years after your complete orthodontic treatments. It’s recommended that you wear your retainer at night for the rest of your life to keep your teeth in place.

Your orthodontic treatments cost a good bit of money totaling several thousand dollars. You’ve waiting for a couple of years in braces to get the perfect smile. It would be a shame for your teeth to shift back to their original positions after investing time and money into a beautiful smile.

Wearing a retainer is a simple thing you can do to maintain that gorgeous, straight smile for life.

Contact us with questions about orthodontics and retainers. We are happy to talk to those who stopped wearing their retainers and help you get back in the habit with a new one. We can give you an exam and ensure your teeth remain settled from your original treatment. Call us today!

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