For how long do I have to wear my
retainers? It’s the age-old question. For an eternity, of course! But let me
change your perspective on that bleak outlook.
The real question is, How long do you want to wear your retainers? Depends how
long you want your teeth to stay that way. So it’s really about how long you
need to wear retainers.
Teeth are not static. They are dynamic, always moving, and they will continue to
move and shift even though you’ve had braces. They’ll try to move forward, up
and outwards, and they will continually crowd. (You can read about this
process, called mesial drift, here). If you chew your nails or
smoke cigarettes, they will move. As we age, our bite, and hence, our face,
collapses. This is inherently part of the aging process.
So, if you are a teenager, and just had your teeth moved into their optimal
position via braces, those teeth have a strong tendency to relapse into their
original position. The teeth actually have a “memory” of the position they were
in before braces. There are ligaments that connect the teeth to the bone and these
ligaments stretch as the teeth are moved to their new position.
This is where retainers come into play! They lock the teeth into place and,
over time, the memory of these ligaments will fade. However, teeth are
continually moving and shifting - not always to our advantage - and it is wise,
once you’ve attained a functional and aesthetic bite via braces or
Invisalign, to maintain this position for as long as you can.
In fact, Invisalign was first introduced as a product designed to correct adult
relapse (aka adults who didn’t wear their retainers). Back to the question, how
long should I wear my retainers for? Ultimately, the answer is, as long as you
want them to be in the right position. I guess that means, into eternity!
I still wear my Invisalign aligners, ten years after orthodontic correction. I
wear them while I sleep, mountain bike, jog, and ski. Not only are my teeth not
relapsing, but I am protecting them during these activities. They protect
against grinding while I sleep and protect my teeth if I
fall during exercise.
The retainers, then, have become just more than about keeping my teeth in
place. They protect my teeth from wear and tear, too. So they’ve become
lifelong friends, and good friends are meant for life!