How long should my retainer last?

retainersThis is a great question, often asked by our patients. The answer varies and let me explain. First there are different types of retainers that we utilize and second, those vary from patient to patient.

  1. The old faithful “Hawley Retainer”: This is our go-to retainer and works great. It has a metal bar that runs across the front teeth with loops on the side. This can be adjusted to make it tighter or looser as needed. This retainer is a work horse and will last about 2-3 years or longer depending on how well it is taken care of.
  2. “Fixed Retainer”: This retainer is used in certain cases and is cemented on the inside of the lower teeth or sometimes the upper teeth. Usually it is “glued” on the lower six anterior teeth and same on the top. Sometimes it can be placed just on the top two teeth if you happen to have a large gap in between your teeth or you started out with severely rotated teeth. In some cases brushing or flossing can take a bit longer, but in short time it can become very easy.
  3. “Essix Retainer” or sometimes referred to as a “Clear Retainer” or “Invisalign Retainer”: In the last few years more of our patients are choosing this type of retainer. Mostly because it is more “esthetic” compared to our “Hawley Retainer”. In some cases the initial speech is not affected as much. This retainer is similar to the fixed retainer as it is not adjustable and, once made, stays as is.

    So to summarize, all the above retainers work pretty well, it just depends on what specifically your needs are going to be at the completion of your orthodontic treatment. But no matter what type of retainer you choose, you must wear it as instructed. This will help keep your smile beautiful.

    Also remember to take care of your retainer as instructed, not to step on it or squeeze it or play with it, etc. Leave it in its box when not in use and remember not to throw it away if you set it aside!

    Finally to answer your question about “How long should my retainer last”. From our experience most of the retainers last about two years, sometimes longer. Just like replacing anything you use on a regular basis, a retainer is the same thing – you are using it 24 hours a day and it will wear out and will need replacing sooner or later. It also depends on your habits such as “clenching” or “grinding your teeth at night”.