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Do I Have to Wear A Retainer After Invisalign Treatment?

Are you approaching the end of your Invisalign® treatment? If so, congratulations! The process of wearing Invisalign can feel like a long and arduous journey. But in the end, it’s all worth it when you get to enjoy your stunning new smile. 

That said, the journey isn’t quite over after you take off your final Invisalign tray set. Your orthodontist will give you an Invisalign retainer to wear. While it might seem like a pain to have to wear a retainer after all of that time spent wearing Invisalign trays, it’s a crucial step in the process for maintaining that gorgeous smile you spent so much time working toward. In my latest blog post, I will review everything you need to know about wearing a retainer after Invisalign

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What is the Purpose of Wearing a Retainer After Invisalign?

You will need to wear a retainer after Invisalign to maintain your gorgeous new smile.

After you finish your Invisalign treatment, your orthodontist will give you a retainer, or you'll buy one from your at home service. There are even companies like SportingSmiles that send impression kits to your door so you don't even need a visit to the doctor to retain that beautiful smile. That is, if you wear it regularly to prevent your teeth from moving.

For most Invisalign users, their treatment lasts around 12 to 18 months. It’s understandable if they feel a little wary or even annoyed about using a retainer after all that time spent wearing their trays. However, patients must wear their retainers in order to stabilize their teeth and prevent them from moving. Many Invisalign patients actually wore traditional braces when they were younger. But because they didn’t consistently wear their retainers, their teeth started to become crooked again. 

Female dentist working in her dentist office

Why Your Teeth Are Vulnerable to Moving After Treatment

If you ever stopped wearing your Invisalign trays for a short period of time, you probably noticed that they felt a little tighter after you put them back on. This is because your teeth slowly started to shift back to their original positions. 

Because your jawbone tends to soften during treatment, your teeth are prone to moving back to their original places. Because of this, your orthodontist needs to give you a retainer to wear after treatment. Without one, your teeth will eventually move back to their old spots. While you wear the retainer, your jaw can build up bone to keep your teeth in place and stabilize them. 

What is the Length of Time Required to Wear a Retainer?

After about 12 months, you can reduce the number of days you wear your retainer.

Dentist holding xray resultIt will take around 9-12 months for your body to build enough bone to stabilize your teeth. Until then, you need to stay vigilant about wearing your retainer on a regular basis. 

“How long will I have to wear my retainer for?” The short answer to that question is: for the rest of your life. That said, as time goes on, you can shorten the number of hours you wear the retainer. 

In the beginning, you will need to wear it for about 22 hours a day. After around 4 months, you can shorten it and wear it only when going to bed. By then, your jaw will have produced enough bone to keep your teeth stable. However, your orthodontist will have to make the final call for when you can make this transition. Even after your jaw regains its bone tissue, your teeth will still move a little as you grow older. That’s why you will still need to wear your retainers at night. 

Top 3 Tips for Taking Care of Your Retainer

Just like your Invisalign trays, your retainer requires special care and maintenance.

colorful retainers on metallic trayJust like your Invisalign trays, your retainer will require care and maintenance to prevent any wear and tear.

In order to make sure your retainer lasts for a long time, learn how to clean Invisalign retainers and wear them properly.

1. Clean Your Retainer Regularly

You should clean your retainer at least once a day. Most people prefer to rinse and brush them before inserting them. When rinsing them, make sure you use cold water. Retainers don’t do well in hot temperatures. You should also soak your retainer in a denture cleaner at least once every two weeks. 

2. Avoid Using Bleach or Alcohol-Based Mouthwash to Clean Your Retainer

Harsh chemicals like bleach and alcohol-based mouthwash can damage the plastic in your retainers. When giving your retainer a quick brush and rinse, you can just use toothpaste and water, so long as your toothpaste isn’t super abrasive. 

3. Remember to Remove Your Retainer Before Eating and Brushing

Eating with your retainers still inside your mouth can cause food and plaque to get trapped in your teeth. It can also cause discoloration, making your clear retainers even less clear (learn how to remove stains from Invisalign trays). If you brush your teeth while wearing them, you might miss a spot or even displace the retainer by accident. So make sure you remove your retainer before doing either of these activities! 

Finally taking off your last tray of Invisalign can feel great, but you aren’t finished with your treatment just yet. You’ll need to wear a retainer after Invisalign in order to prevent your teeth from moving back into their old spots. Taking care of your retainer will also be crucial so you get the best return on your smile journey investment!

For more Invisalign tips and tricks, check out our Movemints blog to answer every question you have about straightening your teeth with clear aligners!

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