Dr. Greg Jorgensen
(505) 891-9440
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

How Long Should I Wear My RetainerMy 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.

Dr. Greg Jorgensen is a board certified orthodontist providing braces and Invisalign to children, teenagers, and adults in Rio Rancho, New Mexico and the Albuquerque Westside.

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

  1. Victoria says:

    I had my braces taken off to get fitted for my retainers. In just 3 days that I was waiting for my retainer a little gap opened in my 2 front teeth. I have now been wearing my retainers for over 48 hours and the little gap between my 2 front teeth is still there. Should I be concerned and go back to the orthodontist or should I give it more time for the retainers to maybe keep them in place and close the gap. I did feel some pressure when I first put them on but now I don’t feel any really and the gap is there.

  2. shannon says:

    I am able to remove my vaccum retainers with my tongue as they are a bit loose should I see my orthodontist about this

    • They should be tight enough to stay in through the night and should feel as though they are holding the teeth motionless. Depending upon the shape of your teeth, being able to dislodge them with your tongue may not be a problem. As your orthodontist to check this at your next visit.

  3. shannon says:

    I had a temporary crown repaired which moved my front teeth can the retainers fix that

  4. Ainsley says:

    I got my braces off last week and recently got my retainer yesterday, I had to wear it for 24 hours and when I woke up I noticed that my retainer was slightly scarred as I tend to grate my teeth, do you think it will be any different if I wore it during the day instead of at night time for the same amount of time ??

    • Your retainer will work either way. I would encourage the night time wear however because the retainer is preventing enamel wear. You may have to replace your retainers when they are worn through, but that is cheaper than repairing damage to your teeth!

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