Keep on Smiling: Why It’s Important to Wear Your Retainer After Braces

You’re on the cusp of getting your braces off. You’re excited about your new smile, but are even more excited that you’ll no longer have to live with something pushing, pulling, and causing pain to your teeth.

Ah, but not so fast! Your days of teeth straightening aren’t over just yet. See, after those braces come off, you’re going to have to wear a retainer.

Retainers are not optional — at least not if you want to maintain all the work that your braces just did. Wondering why it’s important to wear your retainer after braces? Let’s get into the specifics.

Why You Need to Wear Your Retainer After Braces

To understand the need for retainers, you must first understand what braces do to the teeth. To put it simply, braces entirely alter the structure of the teeth and their surrounding components. Not only do they alter the tendons which are attached to the teeth but the jawbone and the soft tissue as well.

The problem is, once they’ve been removed, braces can no longer maintain the changes that they initially created. As such, these changes have the potential to reverse to their original state.

This is where the retainer comes in. The retainer is responsible for maintaining changes to the teeth after the braces have come off. If not worn on a regular basis, the teeth have the potential to shift back to where they once were, rendering all of that time spent with your braces useless.

So, in essence, if you want to maintain straight teeth and ensure that the work of your braces wasn’t in vain, you need to wear your retainer.

How Long Do You Have to Wear Your Retainer?

Now, you might be wondering: how long do you have to wear your retainer? Ideally, you’ll wear your retainer for the rest of your life. Note, however, that you are able to lessen the use of your retainer over time.

The first 3 to 6 months after you have your braces removed, you’re advised to wear your retainer at least 22 hours a day. During this time, you should only be taking your retainer out so that you can eat and brush your teeth.

For the next year, you’ll want to wear your retainer every night while you sleep. You don’t have to wear it at all during the day.

After that year has passed, you’ll want to wear your retainer every other night for the rest of your life. Again, wearing it during the day won’t be necessary.

Types of Retainers

There are, in general, three different types of retainer. These include fixed retainers, invisible retainers, and Hawley retainers, each of which has its own benefits and drawbacks. To help you decide which is best for you, we’re going to discuss the specifics of each below.


Sometimes called permanent retainers, fixed retainers consist of thin, metal wires. They’re attached to the front 6 teeth and are held in place with a cement-like substance.

Despite having the word “permanent” in their name, fixed retainers are not, in fact, permanent. Generally, they thrive for between 3 and 5 years before they need to be changed. After this time has passed, it’s customary for them to be replaced with removable retainers.


Invisible retainers are made out of thick plastic and are worn in a way similar to the way that mouthguards are worn. This is to say that they fit directly over the teeth, encompassing them entirely.

Though they’re sometimes referred to as “invisible”, invisible retainers are more accurately described as “translucent”. While you can definitely notice teeth through invisible retainers, the invisible retainers themselves are quite prominent.

Unlike fixed retainers, invisible retainers can be taken out. This should occur while eating and brushing your teeth.


Hawley retainers are the most popular types of retainers, primarily because they’re the cheapest. These are the retainers that most individuals think of when they hear the word retainer. Comprised of both plastic and metal wire, they fit over the front of the teeth with the metal wire visible.

The downside to Hawley retainers is that they’re aesthetically displeasing. Not only are they easily noticeable, but they possess an appearance which is similar to that of braces.

Caring for a Retainer

Caring for retainers is fairly straightforward. Generally, if you utilize the following tips, you’ll be in the clear.

Clean it Before Storing it in a Container

Before you put your retainer in its storage container, you need to make sure that it’s been cleaned. Failure to clean your retainer can result in bacterial buildup, causing it to become detrimental to your oral health.

To clean your retainer, you can either brush it with a toothbrush and toothpaste or soak it in a glass of water filled with baking soda. Once finished, rinse it with water, dry it off, and put it in your storage receptacle.

Keep it Away from Abrasive Chemicals

When cleaning your retainer, you’re advised to stay away from abrasive chemicals. These include alcohol-based mouthwashes, bleach, and high-powered cleaners. These substances can corrode a retainer, forcing you into getting a new one.

It’s also important that you don’t try to disinfect your retainer in boiling water. Boiling water can cause a retainer to become misshapen, rendering it useless.

Take it Out Before Eating

You should never leave your retainer in while eating. Retainers can trap food particles, attracting bacteria and increasing plaque levels exponentially. Take your retainer out, give your teeth a break, enjoy your meal or snack, brush, floss, and then put your retainer back in.

In Need of Orthodontic Care?

And there it is, that’s what happens when you don’t wear your retainer after braces. As you can see, a retainer is a complete necessity for those who want to maintain straight teeth.

Perhaps you’re looking to take advantage of braces? Maybe it’s time for a retainer? Whatever the case may be, if you’re in need of orthodontic care in Vernon Hills or Glenview, Illinois, Graber & Gyllenhaal Orthodontics can help.

We offer both Invisalign and traditional braces, allowing you to straighten your teeth discreetly if you wish. Making use of the best technology, we’ll do everything we can to ensure that your experience is a comfortable one.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment!