Congratulations! Your braces are off and it’s time to show off your smile! Now your teeth want to stay straight but not as much as you want them to. That’s why you need retainers.


Your teeth never stop moving. It’s completely normal and natural for them to move, whether you’ve had braces or not. Nothing in your body stays still or remains the same. Life is movement, you can’t avoid it. Your Orthodontists will give you retainers to minimize those natural movements.

In fact, no part of your body can stay as good and as young-looking as your smile with some help from the retainers.

Teeth are hard and set in the bone so it’s not obvious that they’ll move. They will – guaranteed. Your teeth are going to move for the rest of your life and you want to minimize that movement to keep your great smile. Teeth move because the bone that holds them is constantly adjusting to the natural changes in your body. You want to keep those retainers fitting because that means your teeth are straight. When the retainers fit well, and your teeth look good, you know things are fine.

You need to start wearing the retainers 24 – 7 when your braces first come off and when your teeth are moving the most. You can take the retainers out for eating and short periods, but you really want those teeth and retainers to settle into each other for this first period. When you leave the retainer out, it’ll be a little tight when you put it back in, but make sure you put them into place.

take the retainers out for eating

Now don’t bite the retainer into place.

That will break the wires that hold onto the molars. Be sure the retainer is fully in place. You’ll quickly get to know how the retainer is supposed to feel when it’s fitting into place properly and if it feels wrong – don’t leave it! Keep trying until you get that retainer back into place. If the retainer is not fitting normally, call your orthodontists! The sooner the better. The longer you leave it, the more likely you’ll need a new retainer.

When you leave the retainer out for a while, it’s normal for the retainer to be tight when you put it back in. It should settle back to feeling normal in a few seconds or a minute or two at the most – unless you’ve left it out for longer! If the teeth have moved more, the retainer can be pretty tight for a few hours or a few days. If you stick with it, the retainer will settle back into place, as it gradually moves the teeth back into position. The retainer is not the best way to move the teeth – braces are, but you don’t want to go back to those.

If the retainer still fits poorly after a few days, call your orthodontists. They may be able to adjust the retainer or they may have to remake the plastic part to fit the teeth better. Many of these minor movements are not noticeable, but they’re enough to make your retainer fit poorly.

Teeth have their own unpredictable rhythm of movement.

I like to say teeth move in two ways – slowly and quickly and you don’t know the timetable. That’s why you should keep wearing the retainer regularly to keep track of the fit. A well-fitting retainer makes those little adjustments to your teeth to keep them straight. If the teeth move a little, the retainer will be tight, but if you stick with it the teeth can move back and the retainer will fit better.

If the teeth move too much, you’ll need to redo the plastic of the retainer. And if the teeth move this much, you have to talk about ways to put the teeth back straighter or remake the plastic to hold the teeth in their new, somewhat crooked positions. So the retainer is a wonderful tool to make minor movements to keep the teeth straight and a great check-up tool, to catch teeth moving before the change is noticeable.

The trick is to keep wearing the retainers regularly to catch these tooth movements in the early stages.

wear retainers at night

When the retainer feels tighter, wear it more. You know your teeth are moving. You’ll quickly get to wear your retainer at night and life will be easier. You can just keep your retainers beside your bed. And a big bonus of the retainers is that many people find they grind and clench their teeth less with the retainers. So less wear and tear on your teeth!

It’s not unusual for people to find their retainers very comfortable once they get used to them.

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