Why Do I Need to Wear a Retainer

One of our favorite moments during a patient’s treatment is when they are able to graduate from braces to a long-term retainer. At Petrunic Orthodontics, we treat each and every patient like a friend, and we are nearly as excited as you are when the big day comes! It’s important to us to set you up for success in the next stage of your life which includes caring for those pearly whites by wearing your retainer!

We know not everyone is excited to wear a retainer after finishing a long few years of treatment. But you will thank us if you manage to make the most of it and build the habit. Soon wearing your retainer will become second nature, and will be well worth the effort. Let’s learn more about why it’s so important to wear one!

The Purpose of a Retainer

You have probably heard that wearing a retainer will help your teeth from shifting after finishing Invisalign or getting braces off. In fact, during those first few crucial months after your treatment is done, your teeth will begin regaining bone mass and strength that had diminished while they were shifting with treatment. By wearing your retainer at all times for those first few months you allow your teeth to reset, regain strength, and become stronger in their newly aligned form. Forgetting to wear your retainer during this time can have negative results with your teeth shifting out of alignment very quickly.

After that important first stage is done and Dr. Petrunic gives you the go-ahead to start wearing your retainer only at night, it will still be essential that you maintain this nightly routine. When patients start to get a little lazy about putting in their retainers and skip nights or even ditch their retainer altogether, the chances are good that your teeth will start shifting back into the alignment they were before treatment. It can happen quickly and subtly, so the next time you try to put your retainer in, it won’t fit! Don’t make this mistake and lose all of the incredible progress you have made so far. 

One lesser-known reason to wear your retainer indefinitely is to prevent what Dr. Petrunic calls natural physiological drift. This is one of those biological phenomena that happens as we age, and it means that our mouths begin to narrow, making less space for our teeth. Surprisingly, wearing retainers as you age can prevent physiological drift, keeping your teeth and bite healthier for longer.

How Long Will You Need to Wear a Retainer?

The short answer here is: always. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, we promise. Soon enough, wearing and caring for your retainer will feel like second nature, and with all the benefits, it will be worth it to you to continue. The good news is that for most people, after those first crucial stages when a retainer needs to be worn at all times, you should only need to wear them at night. Few people will ever see you wearing them and you’ll get the ongoing results you need. 

Types of Retainers


A Hawley retainer is one of the ‘old-school’ ones that you think of, with the acrylic mold that fits onto the roof or bottom of your mouth, and wires that fit around your teeth to hold them in place. Despite the fact that they are a classic approach, they still work well for some patients! They are removable and need to be cleaned on a daily basis.


An Essix retainer looks just like an Invisalign aligner tray. They are made from a clear plastic mold of your teeth and fit perfectly over your teeth to hold them in place. These retainers are also removable, and will also need to be cleaned daily in order to keep them clean and safe.


A fixed retainer means that it is permanent and will live inside your mouth indefinitely. Usually made of a simple metal wire that is fused along the backside of your teeth, permanent retainers are convenient as they don’t need to be remembered to be taken in or out, cleaned, and can never be lost. They can be broken, however, if chewing or biting hard substances, and they are cleaned during your regular brushing and flossing routine. 

How To Care for Your Retainer

Keeping a retainer clean is simple but requires adding in a few new daily habits. For removable retainers like Essix or Hawley retainers, it is best to clean them first thing in the morning. Give them a good rinse to remove saliva and other particles that collect on them, and then grab a toothbrush that you have set aside just for the purpose of cleaning your retainers. 

Having a separate toothbrush is helpful to prevent accidentally using toothpaste on your retainers. Believe it or not, toothpaste often contains tiny abrasives that can scratch your retainer and damage it. Instead, use antibacterial hand soap or mouthwash, and scrub your retainers inside and out with lukewarm water. Give them a good rinse, and they should be clean and ready to wear or store for later! 

Why Do I Need to Wear a Retainer

Let Petrunic Orthodontics Take Care of Your Teeth

If you are ready to get started on a journey toward straighter, healthier teeth, then look no further than Petrunic Orthodontics! We have been caring for patients in or near Prattville for many years, and we have a friendly and professional staff you can trust. Give us a call today to find out more about our free consultation appointment!