You’ve worked hard to achieve your straight, healthy smile! Now that your braces are off, wearing your retainer after treatment is the easiest and most effective way to keep your new smile in place for years to come. Unfortunately, as many as 25 percent of orthodontic patients don’t wear their retainer following their treatment.

Like them, you may wonder: What’s the big deal? Do I have to wear my retainer every day? What happens if I don’t? Just because your braces are off and your treatment is over, that doesn’t mean that your perfect smile is going to stay in place. Even a few months of not wearing your retainer could cause your teeth to relapse.

What Is Relapsing?

Relapsing is when your teeth shift back into their original positions. The first six to nine months following your treatment are the most vital to your healing process and maintaining your straighter smile. During these initial months, you should wear your retainer every single day, every hour of the day, except when you’re eating.

This is because your gum tissue is still soft and your teeth are still settling into their new locations. Without the pressure of braces, wires, or brackets, your crooked teeth will very easily return. Proper retainer wear can prevent this by providing just enough pressure needed to keep your teeth in place.

After the first nine months following your orthodontic treatment, you can move to wearing your retainer at night. Wearing it to bed will continue to apply just enough pressure your teeth need to stay in place.

Do I Need to Wear My Retainer Forever?

You may not have to wear your retainer for the rest of your lifetime, but it is good practice to wear it for as long as you want to keep your teeth straight and for as long as your orthodontist says you must. The position of your teeth changes slightly over the years as you grow older. Patients who wear their retainers diligently as teenagers may stop when they are adults, only to discover their smile relapsed over time and they need braces once again. Many patients who relapse end up back at the orthodontist in as little as ten years. After all of the hard work, time, and money you spent on your beautiful smile, chances are you don’t want to lose any progress!

What If I Forget to Wear My Retainer?

Forgetting to wear your retainer for a day or two isn’t the end of the world. That’s not enough time to cause any major tooth movements. You may experience some slight pain when you put your retainer back in, but nothing more serious than the discomfort you experienced after getting your wires tightened.

However, if you neglect your retainer regimen for several months or if your retainer breaks and you don’t get it fixed, you may be in store for a return visit to the orthodontist’s office for a replacement retainer. Never try to force your retainer back into your mouth if it doesn’t fit anymore. This can cause damage, injury, or other complications. Instead, call our team and we’ll schedule an appointment so you can be fit for a new retainer.

Keep Your Teeth in Shape with Exeter Smiles

Your orthodontic journey doesn’t end when your braces come off. Here at Exeter Smiles, we’ll be with you every step of the way, answering questions about the aftercare process, how to keep your retainer clean, and how to eliminate the risk of relapse.

To learn more, request an appointment with any one of our Lehigh Valley orthodontists. We have offices in Allentown and Reading.