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.

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

  1. Mughilan says:

    I was wearing braces for the past 10months..for my upper tooths and just removed it recently,so im using my plastic retainer as for now…My dentist advice me to wear 24/7 for the next 2years…..is that possible for me to take it off for any occasions and all that for few hours per day…

  2. Rayjee says:

    Sometimes I go complete days without wearing mine. It doesnt seem to hurt anything too badly

  3. Cammy says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen,
    I got my braces off last week and one week later got my retainer.
    Currently with my retainer I cannot bite down properly and my teeth are sore. Also there is a lot of saliva. Will all this go away soon?

    My orthodontist told me to wear my retainers 24/7, but it is hard for me to do so at home so would it make a huge difference if I didn’t wear my retainers for the 8 hours at school, but wore them at home and at night?

    Thank you!

    • The extra saliva will go away, but there is a problem if you cannot bite down all the way. You need to discuss the problems you’re having with your orthodontist. You can also discuss the number of hours you’ve been asked to wear your retainers.

  4. Nishant says:

    i had wear 10 month braces now doctor gave me retainer and said wear 24/7 for 5 month.I am feeling bore of that.What will happen if wear only at night?

  5. Ashley says:

    Dr. Jorgensen,

    I had my braces removed over a year ago and never wore a retainer and my teeth began to shift to the way they were before. I now wear a plastic retainer, my question is how effective do you think this method will be? since it has been so long, do you think it will take my teeth a little while longer to shift? and last, how long should I continue this method?

    • Retainers only “retain” or hold your teeth. They don’t move them. Aligners however are like retainers, but the position of the teeth was altered before the plastic shell was created. When you push the aligner into place, the crooked teeth are nudged into the new position. If your plastic retainer was made to fit your teeth where they are now, there will be no improvement no matter how long you wear them. If your new retainer is actually an aligner, your teeth will get sore for a few days, the teeth will shift slightly, and then they will remain in the new position as long as you keep wearing it. This is actually how Invisalign works except there is a series of multiple aligners that each move the teeth slightly.

  6. mariam says:

    hi dr ,
    i removed my braces recentlty (a week ago ) and now i wear clear retainers but my doctor told me only to wear them 3 hours a day and not to wear them while sleeping but isn’t that too little time ?

    • I’m not your doctor, so I can’t prescribe a time for you. I can tell you that ask my patients to wear their retainers 8 hours a day, usually while they are asleep. Good luck!

  7. Melike Fat says:

    I took my braces off on Monday and a day later i got my retainers is it ok for me to skip a day of wearing the retainers?? My dentist told me to wear them 24/7 but i can’t talk properly in them and don’t want to wear them for school

    • I would follow your orthodontist’s instructions if you want to be safe. I have may patients wear their retainers 8 hours per day (usually when they sleep) and I have seen excellent results.

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