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

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.

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

  1. Judy Cassone says:

    I appreciate your knowledge and time you tale yo respond to your readers. I’m 60, just got my invisalyn braces off after one year, I had mild crowding on the bottom, the top were fine, ( I had braces as a teenage as week). But, of course my orthodonist treat both top and bottom. Question, I was told to wear my plastic retainer 22 hours for 4 months, I did this several days and when I take them out I have a small specs do between my two front teeth, so I left them out and they went back. Yesterday I wore them for 10 hours and today they were fine. I read you state studies show the full 22 hours aren’t necessary…..I guess I just need a confirmation on this. Thank you so much.

    • All patients are different and you and your doctor can come up with a retainer time that works best for you. If you are getting a space every time you take out your retainer, you need to discuss having your doctor bond a permanent retainer behind those teeth involved.

  2. Jon Nogard says:


    I got my braces off 5 years ago and have been wearing my Hawley retainer faithfully. However, I needed a crown and a root canal, so I had to stop wearing my top retainer for almost a month! Now when I put it back in, it’s tight, but still fits. I definitely feel the pressure when having it in. My question is, if I just wear it for 10-12 hours per day, will it slowly readjust and not become so tight, or do I need to suck it up and wear it longer than that for a while before going down to just at night? Thanks so much, I appreciate the advice.

  3. aneemuskan says:

    Sir I wanted to ask that I have crowding and I’m 17 if I don’t get the braces will it be worse in years? Wat will happen ?

  4. Jasmin Gomez says:

    Hi! I just got my retainer plastic today. I pushed it on but there is section of plastic, on both top and bottom retainers, that doesn’t fit onto my teeth. I don’t know if the retainer is too big or if I should push them in more. Help?

    • Plastic shell retainers either fit or they don’t. There is no in between. You need to return to your orthodontist, show them the area that doesn’t fit, and have the retainers remade.

  5. K says:

    After having braces for 2 years and a half, my ortho said to wear my Hawley retainer 24/7 for a year, then 16 hours/day for a year, then overnight after that. Is wearing your retainers for that long really necessary?

    • There is no research to support that retention protocol, but I cannot take responsibility for what happens to your teeth if you do not follow your orthdontist’s recommendations

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