When Can I Stop Wearing My Retainer?

Who doesn’t love seeing a good smile all day? Most people wear retainers to keep their teeth in place to have a whiter, straighter smile and make an excellent first impression. This article will answer the ever-lasting question: When Can I Stop Wearing My Retainer?

Table of Contents

You can stop wearing your retainer when your orthodontist approves of it. You should wear a retainer full time for at least 3 to 6 months after an orthodontic treatment such as braces or teeth alignment, then wear them at night for at least ten years.

In the rest of the article, I’ll go through when you can stop wearing your retainer, the types of retainers, what happens if you don’t wear one, and how to take care of your retainer. Keep reading to learn more.

When Can I Stop Wearing My Retainer Forever?

You have been counting the days until your braces are off. As if that wasn’t enough, your orthodontist prescribes retainers that you must wear most of the time. Sometimes, it feels like you have been taking extra care of your teeth and need a break.

However, if you don’t want your teeth to go back to their original shape or position after braces removal, you should wear your retainer full time for the first two weeks. During this time, your teeth can return to their old place, and you need to protect your investment.

Ask your dentist if you can stop using the retainer after two weeks to avoid relapse, which occurs when your teeth slip back to their original position.

You can stop wearing your retainer forever if you had your teeth aligned as a kid or teenager and wore the retainer for at least ten years. If you’re an adult getting your teeth adjusted for the first time, you’ll be required to wear a retainer forever.

Our teeth begin to shift or move as we age, and removing a retainer may cause your teeth to lose their new position.

However, according to a 2010 orthodontists survey, “You should wear a removable retainer full time (day and night) for at least nine months after braces removal.”

Types of Retainers - Man wearing invisible clear plastic retainers
Types of Retainers – Man wearing invisible clear plastic retainers

Types of Retainers

The type of retainers prescribed by your orthodontist determines the duration you can wear them. A retainer is defined based on the reason for your braces and your teeth condition.

Most dental surgeons recommend three common types of retainers, including bonded (permanent), Hawley (removable), and clear plastic (removable):

1. Bonded Retainers: A bonded retainer is a permanent fix after removing your braces that keep your teeth aligned for the first few months. If you have to wear retainers all of the time, bonded retainers are the best option.

2. Hawley Retainers: A Hawley (wire) retainer is a removable type that you can remove when eating meals and cleaning. However, you must follow your orthodontist’s instructions and specifications when putting it back.

3. Clear Plastic Retainers: A clear plastic retainer is also a removable type that fits your teeth’s new position. They are virtually invisible, which explains why they are the most popular among the two above.

Here is a comparison table for the three types of retainers, including their duration, pros, cons, and average cost:

Type Duration Pros Cons Average Cost
Bonded Indefinitely
  • Very durable, lasting for years
  • Permanent, can’t be lost or misplaced
  • Easy to talk with
  • Plaque and tartar buildup
  • Tongue irritation from the wires
S200 – $500 for one arch
Hawley 1 – 20 years
  • Adjustable
  • Plastic color personalization
  • Removable for eating and cleaning
  • Visible metal wire
  • Causes excess saliva production
$150 – $350 for one arch
Clear Plastic 6 – 12+ months
  • Invisible
  • Fitting and comfortable
  • Easily removed for oral hygiene
  • Easily damaged or misplaced
  • Needs yearly replacement
$100 – $ 300 for one arch

Note: Your orthodontist can decide when to remove or repair a permanent or removable retainer based on your current teeth condition.

What Can Happen if I Stop Wearing My Retainer?

Sometimes, wearing a retainer is tiring, and you can’t wait to get rid of them. However, it’s better than putting braces on all over again.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AOO), “It’s best to wear your retainer following orthodontic treatment to prevent your teeth from shifting from the desired position.”

If you stop wearing your retainer, your teeth will slowly shift back into the position they were initially in before you had your orthodontic or dental treatment. If you don’t wear your retainer as advised, your treatment would have been for nothing.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the consequences of not wearing your retainer.

Orthodontic Relapse

Retainers are necessary after braces are removed to prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original position.

Relapse frequently occurs in the first year after orthodontic treatment because your gum and ligament fibers are restructuring to the new teeth position. So, you must wear your retainers full time for the first 3-6 months to avoid orthodontic relapse.

Worsening of Teeth Alignment

When you don’t use your retainer, your teeth may become more misaligned than before starting orthodontic treatment.

As your teeth adjust to the treatment, some ligaments may restructure faster than others, introducing new angles and positions that can quickly go askew. If this occurs, you may need braces to fix your teeth’ alignment for a more extended period.

Changes in Your Bite

The main objective of teeth alignment treatment is to straighten a patient’s bite while maintaining the new teeth’ position. However, if you fail to wear a retainer or replace a worn retainer, it can cause adverse consequences on your teeth and change your bite.

What Can Happen if I Stop Wearing My Retainer - Dentist giving male patient his new retainers
What Can Happen if I Stop Wearing My Retainer – Dentist giving male patient his new retainers

Which Is the Best Way To Take Care of My Retainer?

It should go without mentioning that a retainer is essential for fixing your bite and correcting your teeth’s alignment.

However, like any medical device, retainers can wear out or create bacteria buildup if not washed properly. In the same way, you can never go for days without brushing your teeth; you should always take care of your retainer to maintain good oral hygiene.

The best way to take care of your retainer is to clean it frequently and keep it in its case to prevent losing it, damaging it, or exposing it to unhygienic conditions.

Here is a quick and straightforward routine on how to take care of your retainer:

Keep Your Retainer Clean

You can clean permanent retainers by brushing with toothpaste immediately after eating or drinking anything apart from water. However, if it’s a removable one, follow your orthodontist’s cleaning instructions or remove them before eating or drinking.

You may also want to use a denture cleaner tablet to clean the retainer once daily.

Keep Your Retainer in Good Shape

If you’re not using your retainer, put it away in its case to avoid destroying or misplacing it. Ensuring that you store it properly will ensure that you do not lose it and that it doesn’t get too dirty. Replace a loose or worn retainer by asking for a new one from your orthodontist.

Which Is the Best Way To Take Care of My Retainer - Happy woman wearing her invisible clear teeth retainer
Which Is the Best Way To Take Care of My Retainer – Happy woman wearing her invisible clear teeth retainer


Wearing a retainer is the best way to fix incorrect tooth alignment. However, you must use a retainer as directed by your orthodontist, who will also determine when you can stop wearing one. Keep in mind that it could take less than a year, ten years, or forever.

Thanks for reading!

We hope this article answered the question about “When I Can Stop Wearing My Retainer“. If you liked this story, you may want to checkout Everything You Need to Know About Tooth Pain After Whitening and Why Baby’s Teeth Coming in Wrong Order? – Everything Moms Needs to Know.


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