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Do I Have to Wear a Retainer?

Wearing braces is a rite of passage for some and just a necessary phase for others. Yet, however you view your teeth straightening treatment, everyone can agree that they would rather not wear braces more than once in their lifetime. To make sure that once is enough, you need to wear a retainer.

Like you, our team of experienced orthodontic specialists at LM Orthodontics in McLean, Virginia wants to make sure that the time, effort, and money you spent on your braces don’t go to waste. The best way to ensure that is to wear the retainer we customize for you. Here’s why.

Why you need to wear your retainer

Your teeth are anchored into your jaw by the roots, of course, but also by surrounding structures like gums, ligaments, and other fibrous tissues. When you wear braces (clear or traditional) or use clear aligners, they force your crooked teeth into a different — straighter — position. 

This force necessarily loosens the support system surrounding your teeth in order to move them. So, if you release your teeth from their straightening system without providing reinforcements, they simply shift back into their previous crooked positions. 

This is especially important to understand if you’re an adult because your bones and ligaments are much stronger than a child’s or an adolescent’s, which means that the likelihood of your teeth reverting back to their original position is much greater. 

What happens when you don’t wear your retainer

The time immediately following the removal of your braces or the last day of your clear aligner treatment is the most critical time to wear your retainer. This is the time when your teeth are most apt to shift back into the original position they were in for so many years. 

Our team lets you know exactly how long you need to wear your retainer and when, but you can expect to keep it in day and night for the first couple of months (maybe longer). If you have a fixed retainer, you don’t have to worry about making sure you keep it in long enough; that part is taken care of for you. But if you have a removable appliance, you’ll need to be diligent about putting it in. Here’s what happens if you don’t:

One week with no retainer

Once your braces are gone, your teeth will naturally shift. In fact, everyone’s teeth shift throughout their lives. But if you have a retainer, even the slightest change could make a difference in how it fits — or doesn’t fit. 

One month with no retainer

If you go for a month without wearing your retainer, your dental structure could change enough to require a new appliance. And even if you’ve already paid your dues by wearing it diligently for the first few months day and night and had graduated to nights only, you may have to go back to wearing it around the clock again.

One year without a retainer

Neglecting to wear your retainer for a whole year could set your teeth-straightening treatment back to square one. Without the additional support, many people find that they end up with the same crooked teeth they started with and have to begin their braces treatment all over again.

Retainers or a second round of braces — the choice is yours

No one but you can make you wear your retainer. We know you’d rather be appliance-free, but the alternative is going back to crooked teeth, a misaligned bite, and potentially another round of braces. About 1 in 5 people start off committed to their retainers but end up ditching them after a couple of years.

Do yourself a favor and keep using yours. We speak from experience — you’ll be glad you did. If you lost, damaged, or simply haven’t worn your retainer for a while, call us at 703-498-2047. We are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions, but we can meet with you over Zoom or FaceTime and address your questions and concerns. 

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