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.

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.

60 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!

  5. Dion says:

    Hi there, Umm I just had my retainer after a week before I took out my braces and is it possible to just take off the retainer for 8hours a day and then put it back for the rest of the day? Because I’m working as a service ambassador which I need to really speak clearly at all times but I can’t do that with my retainer obstructing. Will it be affecting too much?

  6. Sibel says:

    I got my removable retainers fitted today. The ones with the metal across the teeth. My dentist told me to eat with them in but I’ve read you’re not suppose to? It also keeps popping off when I eat. The bottom one.

    • I’m not your doctor, but I would NEVER eat with a removable retainer in place. Having your retainer out of your mouth for 30 minutes so you can eat and brush will not cause any problems at all.

  7. Golda says:

    Hello there, I have been wearing my retainers for the past week and i noticed from the first day that the retainers do not touch my right upper lateral incisor and canine but they are in contact with the left side…should i be worried? For wearing braces they removed my right side upper and lower premolar teeth and not on the left side so i am worried as i had prob in the right upper teeth and my retainers are not proper

    • Keep your eye on those teeth for a few days and see if anything changes. The plastic behind those teeth is probably enough to keep them in place, but I wouldn’t ignore the possibility that they could move. If you do see a change, get in to see your orthodontist. Your retainer can probably be adjusted.

  8. Maria says:

    I just got my braces off yesterday and I’ve been wearing them all the time except when eating or brushing. My orthodontist said to wear them 24/7 but in two weeks I have a party to attend for about 6-8 hours so I was just wondering if I could not wear them for that amount of time but then always wear them 24/7?

  9. Claire says:

    Can I wear my retainer during the day instead of night because I can’t sleep with it on

  10. Namit says:

    I’m in my third month of braces and my orthodontist has asked me wear a removable thing that is very similar to retainer but does not have metal wires attached to it, in short a post orthodontic retention. I need to know its significance and they removable so should i often remove it while i’m having my lunch/dinner/breakfast and whats the average time to wear those post orthodontic retainers?

    • It sounds like your orthodontist is using an acrylic bite plate to help open your bite so that the teeth can move. It is important that it be worn all the time so that your teeth don’t touch. Ask your orthodontist to clarify how he wants you to use it for your specific case.

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