Dr. Greg Jorgensen
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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.

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

  1. Rebecca says:

    Hi, I got my braces off and my removable and fixed retainer fitted. My fixed retainer is fine, but when my removable retainer is in my bite doesn’t sit right as it sticks at one of my teeth in the right side of my mouth. As a result of this, my mouth ends up sitting squint naturally and I can’t have a proper open smile without a huge gap between my top teeth and bottom teeth. Is this normal with a retainer or do I need to contact my orthodontist, and if it is normal will my mouth eventually sit straight again?

  2. Kaye says:

    Hi, my dentist just took my braces off yesterday, and I’m now wearing vacuum retainer. It holds my teeth very comfortably, so far, I don’t find any trouble wearing them except that I’m having a hard time closing my lips, and when I close them I really look so awkward. I even look like I’m wearing mouthpiece. My dentist suggested I wear them 24/7 for 5 months. and wear them at least every night afterwards, but my friend who’ve had braces before who wore her retainer said I can just wear them at night as it would make no changes as same as wearing them at day time. Your reply would be much appreciated. thank you!!!!

  3. Emily says:

    I recently got fast braces off. I also got the clear essix retainers. My orthodontist said since my teeth have been stable for months to only wear my retainer for 15-20 minutes a day for my individual case. Is this normal?

    • I have not seen any research that supports that retainers can be successful using them for such short periods of time. I have seen studies that show that 8 hours a day is just as good as fulltime however.

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