Retainers for Life After Braces

When it’s time for your braces to come off, then it’s time to start your next step of caring for your smile by wearing a retainer. Wearing a retainer after your treatment with braces is done is an essential part of keeping your smile straight and healthy. 

In this article, we will discuss the importance of wearing a retainer, how to care for your retainer, and how long to expect to wear your retainer. We hope this information will make the decision to invest in pediatric Orthodontics at Snodgrass and King an easy decision.

What is an Orthodontic Retainer?

Retainers are orthodontic devices that are made to fit over the teeth, in one way or another, in order to hold the teeth in the right position.

Is wearing a retainer important after getting braces?


Within the first year after braces, the teeth can still move out of alignment or back to their original positions. No parent or child wants to negate the investment of braces or have to put up with another set of braces. Orthodontic appliances like retainers keep the teeth in place while the tissues in the mouth and jaw settle.

Retainers are even more essential for teenagers who are still growing because their jaws are likely to change throughout adolescence. Thus, putting your investment at a higher risk if your child does not get or wear a retainer. 

What Kind of Retainers Are There?

There are three kinds of retainers that are worn after braces.

  • Essix retainers – removable retainers that are made of clear materials, but not to be confused with Invisalign
  • Removable retainers – slide to fit behind teeth; can be removed
  • Fixed retainers – attached behind your teeth and should not be removed unless done so by your child’s orthodontist

A retainer is either made of plastic, metal, or both, and it’s designed from a mold of your teeth and mouth. Most are made with a wire that is held in place with anchors around the back teeth and a piece that rests along the gumline behind the teeth.

How long do I need to wear my retainer for?

Generally, one year of retention is absolutely necessary after braces are removed. As we mentioned earlier, within the first year the newly aligned teeth need to settle in the jawbone and surrounding tissue. For a child with gaps between teeth prior to braces, healing and settling often take longer than twelve months.

No matter which type of retainer you get, you should be prepared to wear your retainers full time until your orthodontist says you can just wear them at night.

How long do I need to wear certain retainers for?

Essix Retainers

Different types of retainers have different lengths of time that they’re required to be worn for. Essix retainers should be worn day and night for the first two to three months. After your orthodontist says so, you can start wearing them only at night.

Removable Retainers

You’ll need to wear removable plastic retainers full time for the first 4 to 6 months after you get your braces off. After that, you can usually go down to just wearing them at night. However, your orthodontist will help you know exactly how long you should wear your retainers for.

Fixed Retainers

Fixed retainers are a different matter. As the name implies, cannot be removed, but they don’t need to be. You can eat with them on your teeth and you can still clean your teeth with them on. A fixed retainer can last for years before you’ll need another retainer made.

While some orthodontic retainers should be worn at all times for a specified amount of weeks or months upon removal of braces, eventually some removable retainers can be worn just at night while sleeping rather than throughout the day.

How Kids Can Take Care of Their Retainers

For children with removable retainers, ensure that they keep the retainer box nearby at all times for easy access. Make sure they know that if the retainer comes out of their mouth, it should go immediately into the retainer case. The sooner they establish this habit, the less likely they will be to lose their retainers in a napkin.

Please encourage your children to wear retainers when specified so that more braces are not needed in the future. It does not matter if your child just had their braces taken off or it has been seven years since they’ve had braces. Let the children’s orthodontics specialists at Snodgrass-­‐King keep your child’s smile as bright as their future.

How To Clean Your Retainer

For removable retainers, clean them with warm water and a toothbrush to clean off any food or debris. To clean effectively, you should clean your retainers immediately after you take them out of your mouth.

If you want to clean your retainer on a deeper level, you can use warm water mixed with dish soap and a toothbrush to scrub your retainers thoroughly. 

You can also soak retainers using a denture or retainer cleaning solution like Efferdent.

For fixed or bonded retainers, proper brushing and flossing are needed around the back of the teeth and the gums touching the retainer. You’ll need to use a generous amount of floss so you can slide the floss under and around the retainer.

Braces: Before and After

You can see how great your smile will look after braces. Ensure they stay that way with proper retainer care!

Pediatric Orthodontists at Snodgrass & King

If you have any questions about braces, retainers, or other orthodontic treatments, give us a call! We would be happy to chat about your options and how they may benefit you or your children when you visit our pediatric dental office.

As your Nashville Orthodontist, we fully understand that orthodontic care is an investment, and we want to help make that investment one in a lifetime with the proper attention and treatment. 

Request an appointment easily online today!