Young woman wearing a retainer

Retainer Wear: The Final Phase of Your Orthodontic Journey

After the initial orthodontic treatment phase with braces or Invisalign® is complete, a retainer is used to keep the teeth in place. The retention phase can last anywhere from 6 to 24 months or longer; it varies from patient to patient and is based on factors such as length of treatment and likelihood of relapse.

During this phase, patient compliance is essential to achieving and maintaining maximum benefits from orthodontic treatment. It is also important to take care of the retainer by cleaning it regularly and keeping it in a safe place to avoid loss or damage.

It is important to note that while the retention phase is necessary and will stabilize the results achieved through orthodontic treatment, the teeth and jaw are never truly “locked” into place. A variety of conditions can cause shifting over time, including everything from posture and lip and tongue pressure on the teeth, to dental work and the natural aging process.

As such, the only way to ensure your results last for the long haul is to make a life-long commitment to retainer wear. The good news is constant (or near constant) wear as in the retention phase won’t be required—wearing your retainer for 4-7 nights a week while you sleep will be enough to keep your smile intact indefinitely.

Retainer Care Tips:

  • Brush your retainer daily as you would your teeth.
  • Soak in a dental cleaning product monthly for deeper cleaning.
  • Never soak or brush with hot water, which may distort the plastic.
  • Don’t wrap your retainer in a napkin as it can be mistaken for trash.
  • Keep your retainer away from pets—they may see it as a chew toy.

More Information on Retainers

If you still have questions about the retention phase of orthodontic treatment or retainers themselves, the links below will take you to our blog articles that provide more information:

Orthodontic Retainer FAQ—This article answers some of the more common questions about orthodontic retention and retainers.

Types of Retainers and Pros and Cons of Each—In this article you will learn about the different types of retainers (Hawley, clear retainers, fixed retainers, etc.) as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each kind.

In the event that your retainer becomes damaged or lost, it is important that you contact us right away for a replacement to avoid relapse. Remember, the success and longevity of your new smile is dependent on your cooperation during the retention phase.