Dr. Greg Jorgensen
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1401 Barbara Loop SE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

How many hours do I need to wear my orthodontic retainer?

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on March 1st, 2011

TimeMy orthodontist told me to wear my retainer every night but my friend has to wear hers 24/7 for the first 6 months. Why the difference? Is there any research to support one approach over the other?

There is no happier day for an orthodontic patient than the day your braces come off. It is the culmination of months of difficult brushing, flossing, watching what you eat, and wearing those pesky rubber bands. The last thing in the world we want is for the teeth to move. So how much retainer wear is really needed?

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, there is no perfect retainer for all patients and no retainer exists that will keep the teeth exactly like they were when the braces came off. In summary, genetics, wear, tongue position, and regular use cause changes that cannot be completely prevented. The purpose of retainers is to minimize these changes.

In the spirit of doing the best we can, what is the optimum number of hours of retainer wear for the least amount of movement? According to an article in the European Journal of Orthodontics by Drs. Thickett and Power, there was NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE between the amount of tooth movement when full-time and part-time (10 hours per day) retainer wear were compared. That was really good news to me since I have always prescribed that my patients wear their upper retainers nights only after an initial break-in period of 48 hours. It is good to have some research that confirms what I’ve seen clinically over the years.

Is it possible to wear your retainer too much? In some patients who use the vacuum-formed clear retainers over the front teeth, full-time wear can lead to an anterior openbite (a space between the upper and lower front teeth). The openbite that develops is the same size as the plastic covering the teeth. Typically the teeth will settle back together after you are given a wrap-around retainer that does not cover the biting edges while it is worn.

Remember that all patients are individuals and nothing works for everyone. Be sure and follow the specific instructions that your orthodontist gives YOU! He or she is the best one to evaluate your specific needs.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.

197 comments so far in response to “How many hours do I need to wear my orthodontic retainer?”

  1. Maddy says:

    I have a Hawley retainer and I had Invisalignn before. My ortho said to wear it 24/7 for 2 YEARS! I can’t talk with them in and I”m having trouble because I can’t go to school without being able to talk. What do I do? My retainers are also correctional retainers. Does this make a difference?

  2. Maddy says:

    Will my ortho be able to tell if I wear it full time opposed to half time?

    • I can’t answer that. If your teeth move and he asks you if you followed his recommendations, what will you tell him. I would discuss this with your orthodontist since you two are a team.

  3. Lynee Zhang says:

    Hello Doc, I have worn my braces for almost 5 years, because of traveling overseas and I couldn’t check my braces frequently to my dentist. I had tjem removed last week and I am now wearing Hawley retainer for lower teeth and essix retainer for my upper teeth. My dentist advised me to wear them every day and night for 6 months and then only night time for the other 6 months. Since I feel uncomfortable wearing them, is there any possibility for me to wear them less than 12 months ( I have worn my braces longer than normal, wouldn’t that be enough time? )Thank you very much

  4. Josalin says:


    I have gaps in my top front teeth. In order to close the most noticeable ones I have to settle for having a gap on both outer sides of my canine teeth. What retainer do you suggest is best for this? As of now I don’t have an orthodontist, so I need as much info as possible?

    Do you think having gaps on either side will make it easier for my teeth to drift back to their original places? Would I ever be able to only wear my retainer at night, instead of all day everyday? Have you had cases like this before?

    • It sounds like your gaps are there because of the size of your teeth. If there are gaps anywhere, there is also the possibility that the teeth will shirt. You must find a local orthodontist who can look at your teeth in person and help you decide the direction to go with either cosmetic buildups to close the space, braces, or retainers to try and prevent movement.

  5. Jenni says:

    Hi doc. I’ve had 4 premolar extractions and now the braces have closed the gaps. For how many years do I have to wear the retainer? And how many hrs per day

  6. Pratik says:

    Hi, after removing my braces I had a perfect alignment but after a few days I went for scale and polish and my two front teeth got a major gap after the process, how did this happen? I didn’t have that gap earlier though. Also my orthodontist told me it would cover in a month or two.

    • Gaps between the front teeth generally do not close on their own. I would discuss re-treatment of the front teeth to close the space (a month or two) and then a bonded permanent retainer to prevent it from happening again

  7. Jaymi says:


    I got my braces off 4 years ago and wore my retainer everynight since.

    Unfortunately my retainer has snapped and also I have lost it.

    Will this effect teeth alot or will it be ok?

  8. Reed says:

    Hey doc! I just got my braces removed 3 weeks ago and now i have clear essix retainers. However on of my bottom teeth have slightly moved behind the neighboring tooth. When is it time to call the orthodonist? Thanks!

  9. Jamie says:


    I have just had my braces taken off and I have been given a plastic shell retainer for both mg bottom and top teeth. I have been told to wear it at night time only but I see a lot of people are told to wear theirs 24/7. I am now worries that my teeth will move?

    • I can’t answer that for you. I give my patients a permanent retainer on the bottom (which is 24/7). I give them a plastic retainer on the top and have them wear that for 8 hours each night. I’m not a fan of removable retainers on the bottom teeth because I do think that part-time is not enough.

  10. Ben says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen
    Are custom made orthodontic night guards as effective at preventing tooth movement as the acrylic Hawley retainers? To design a night guard, would you use the impressions taken for the retainers when the braces are about to come off?

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