Things About Retainers You May Not Know

Once we start our orthodontic journey, we quickly become familiar with post-care options and routines. Most patients will continue to keep their new smiles in good shape by using a retainer. You’ve likely heard both success stories and failed tales regarding retainers; when you wear it diligently, your smile remains in place and when you don’t, your smile can revert back to its pre-braces state. However, there’s a lot more information patients should be privy to when it comes to retainers. Below are some key insights and fast facts for brushing up on your retainer knowledge to be better prepared for post-treatment.

Hawley Retainers and Essix Retainers

The Hawley Retainer is officially over 100 years old. Named after its creator, Dr. Charles A. Hawley, this device is the most widely-used option to date. The removable retainer first came into existence in the early 1900s and was clinically tested and implemented for the first time in the 1920s. 

Essix retainers, introduced in the 1990s, are a clear option that looks similar to an Invisalign aligner. Talk with your orthodontist about the pros and cons of each kind to see what would be the right fit for your mouth.

Retainers are custom-fitted devices that are molded by your orthodontist to fit your mouth. They are prescribed to keep your smile in place after orthodontic treatment. This final-phase protocol will require patients to follow all directions enlisted by their practitioner and follow up with check-ups regularly. Retainers may be adjusted as time goes on if your smile isn’t staying intact the way it should be. Some retainers may be permanent in nature, but others are removable and meant to be worn at certain times of the day or night. 

Retainers Wear out and Can Get Damaged

Over 50% of orthodontists recommend wearing a retainer after having braces. If you don’t have a permanent retainer, it is imperative to remember when to wear your removable model and to ask your orthodontist if you aren’t sure about your routine. 

Removal retainers will need to be replaced, as wear and tear will lessen their effectiveness over time. If you take proper care of your device, you won’t need to replace it before its time. Milnor Orthodontics cautions patients to keep retainers away from hot water, hot car dashboards, pockets, the washing machine, and napkins. Don’t try to adjust your retainers yourself as they are easily damaged, just bring them to your appointment and talk to your orthodontist about your concerns.

How Long You Need to Wear a Retainer

The most standard treatment suggestion is wearing a retainer for 9 months for 12 hours every day after getting your braces removed, and then switching to a night-only routine. You’ll typically never not need to wear a retainer if you want to keep your smile in pristine condition, you’ll just change the time increments. Some users will be able to maintain their alignment by wearing a retainer only three to five times a week, but suggested wear will vary from patient to patient. 

Treatment Doesn’t End when Your Braces Come off

Though your time with braces has come to an end, your tooth maintenance has not. As you age, your teeth continue to shift and this can be especially true for someone whose natural smile has required orthodontic treatment. When you don’t wear your retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist, you may be subject to what is known as “relapsing.” Your teeth will more than likely shift a little, if not all the way back to their original placement. 

If this occurs, patients may find themselves wearing braces again within 10 years of getting them removed. Don’t ruin all of your hard work by not following your post-care routine. Retainers are meant to make your smile last, so take pride in being diligent about your continued treatment.

Milnor Orthodontics knows a thing or two about how to achieve and keep a perfect smile. Let us know if you have questions about what post-care may look like for you and how to best prepare for what’s ahead in your smile’s future.

At Milnor Orthodontics, our experts are here to help you achieve a priceless smile. Call our office at (970) 230-3187 or visit to learn more. We're located at 1103 S. Shields St. in Fort Collins, Colorado.