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.

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.

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

  1. M says:


    I have recently just got my braces off and I am 19 years old. My doctor said that I need to wear my front retainer for my upper teeth full time for the next 2 years. Is that really necessary ? Or would it be okay if I wore it for just say 12-15 hours a day?

  2. Jenny says:

    I just got my braces off 2 days ago and I just picked up my retainer today. When I went to deband, I got a permanent retainer in both the bottom teeth and the upper teeth. Then, my orthodontist is saying to wear my temporary retainer 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 6 months! I know my friends who have permanent retainers in both the top and bottom teeth and only have to wear their temporary retainer at night. To be honest, I just don’t want to wear it at school. I go to school from 8 3o to 2 40 so its 5 hours. Would it be okay if I wear my temporary retainer after school and then take it off before school starts the next day or would my teeth move? Thank you.

  3. Vince says:

    I recently got an updated retainer after some mild shifting in my teeth but lost it after a move to another city. I just found my new retainer and put it in for the first time in 6 months. It fit in easily but the next morning my teeth were sensitive and felt almost loose. Is this normal? I plan on wearing it every night (9-12 hours/night) for the foreseeable future to ensure that my teeth are maintained but want to ensure I am not damaging my teeth or bone in doing so.

    • The looseness and sensitivity of your teeth indicate that the retainer moved then during the night. You should take your retainer to your orthodontist to have him see how it fits now and get some advice as to whether or not wearing it is advisable.

  4. Owen says:

    3 months ago I have my braces removed, and the dentist gave me a retainer to wear. The dentist told me to 24/7, expect eating time. And I have encounter a problem.

    I know is not really related to this topic, but I am not sure where to ask. So, my wisdom teeth is coming out; and now 2 wisdom teeth at the bottom show a little bit teeth. So around few weeks ago, I phoned my dentist, but the nurse pick up the call. I ask the nurse whether the wisdom teeth will be in the way of the retainer, and whether the wisdom teeth will make my retainer ineffective.

    Her replied was, “What! You still have not remove your wisdom teeth… The dentist did not ask you to remove it? I think as long as you use your retainer, I think it would be okay.”

    My dentist did not ask me to remove my wisdom teeth, but he was aware I have wisdom teeth in my gum, when he looked at my x-ray. In addition, I think most of the patients had their wisdom teeth removed before the braces, because the nurse said, “…You still have not remove your wisdom teeth… Did the dentist ask you to remove it?…”

    Also I notice there is a gap between the teeth that had braces before and swollen gums in the wisdom teeth area. So would the wisdom teeth will be in the way of the retainer? Or whether the wisdom teeth will make my retainer ineffective? If so, should I have my 4 wisdom teeth from the top and bottom removed?

    • Wisdom teeth will not necessarily move your permanent teeth. The key to keeping teeth straight is wearing your retainers. It is possible that the wisdom teeth could come in and make it so that your retainer cannot fit correctly. If that happens, get the wisdom teeth out or get a new retainer.

  5. Travis says:

    Will my Vivera clear retainers act as a grinding guard for my teeth?

    Kind regards.

  6. komal says:

    hi i got my clear retainers 2 days ago is it fine if i wear my retainers during the day time but not night. my dentist told me to wear it 24/7

  7. Elly says:

    Hi, so I got my braces off about a week ago and my retainer yesterday and last night I took off my retainer in my sleep. I don’t know how to make it where I won’t do that again. I also was wondering if it’s okay to wear my retainer during the day instead of night so I don’t have the problem of taking my retainer off during the night.

    • You can wear your retainers during the day, but I would continue trying to sleep in them. You will eventually get used to them being in your mouth at night and will leave them in there.

  8. Jay says:

    I just got my invisalign braces off a month and a half ago. I am currently wearing a clear retainer, but have no clue how long to wear it. My dentist did not give me clear cut instructions just to “wear it as much as possible”. Whenever I ask him to clarify he just gives me a blank stare. I’ve been wearing it 24 hours since, but plan to only wear it at night after 3 months. Is this okay?

    • I advise my patients to wear their aligner style retainers “nights only” (meaning 8 hours) after they feel their teeth are relatively stable. I also tell them to wear them more if they think something is moving. Everyone is different, so you really need to monitor your teeth yourself.

  9. Kahlea says:

    I got my clear retainers about a month ago, and have been wearing them 24/7 almost everyday. And last night, it broke(it has a bunch of cracks) but was still really wearable, my dentist is pretty far so, is it okay if I dont go now? and I was wondering if I could only wear it every night or half a day and the whole night, cause I’ve had them for a month now so

  10. Simon says:


    After I got my braces off I got a fixed wire retainer and a clear Essix retainer (both upper). My orthodontist recommended I wear the clear retainer full time for the first 3 months, and then night time thereafter. I am worried that one of my lateral incisors will rotate if I go from wearing the Essix retainer full time to 8 hours per day. Even with the fixed wire retainer, the tooth still feels delicate and like it wants to rotate. Would easing off gradually with the Essix retainer help? e.g. 18 hours/day for Month 4, 15 hours/day for Month 5 etc?

    Thanks for your help!

    • If you have an Essix and a wire glued to that tooth, you have everything that your orthodontist can give you. You need to monitor your own tooth positions and determine if the standard regimen that your orthodontist has recommended is right for you. Discuss this with your local orthodontist so he knows what’s going on.

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