Why Do I Have to Wear Retainers Forever?

Vivera Retainers after Invisalign or bracesThis is a question we get asked often, so we thought it would be good to educate everyone on why retainers are so important.

Whether you had metal braces, clear braces or removable Invisalign aligners, you will need to wear retainers. At first you may be required to wear them 12-22 hours per day. This recommendation is based on many factors including the severity of your initial problem, your age, and whether we are using the retainers to finalize a few tooth positions.

The majority of our patients are on this type of program for 3 to 6 months. Most, if they have done the required hours in the first 3 to 6 months, can go to nighttime only at 6 months.

The nighttime only is highly recommended for the remaining 6 months or at least until 12 months of daily retainer wear has been accomplished.

After 12 months of continuous retainer wear, we will often recommend wearing your retainers 3-5 times a week for as long as you live.

Many patients are shocked by these recommendations. We are not trying to “torture” you for the rest of your life, but we do want you to realize that without consistent wear of your retainers, there is a strong possibility that the beautiful, straight teeth that you now possess, will not be there forever.

Why does this happen?

It is simple biology, quite frankly.

Your teeth are housed in your jawbones. When you undergo Orthodontic treatment, you have a force system on the teeth (your braces and wires or aligners) that push the teeth into a new position. In order for the tooth to move into a new position, it needs to have bone on the one side disappear or soften (we call this resorption). So if a tooth were moving from the front of your mouth towards the back, the bone on the back of the tooth would disappear (resorb).

Once the tooth is in the new position, new bone is deposited around the tooth to help it stabilize in its new position. This process of depositing new bone can take 9 to 12 months.

During this time, you are wearing your retainers, which are helping to stabilize the new positions of all the teeth while the new bone is being deposited. Hence the reason for 12 months daily wear of your retainers.

You still may be wondering why you need to continue to wear retainers after 12 months.

There is more to the story and more tooth biology, so hang in there as we explain it further.

After 12 months of continuous retainer wear, we often recommend that you to continue to wear your retainers at night 3-5 times a week for life. The reason we recommend this cycle of wear is due to the slow shifting of teeth forward and inward as we get older.

This movement occurs very slowly and in general takes decades to occur. However, it can be prevented through continued and consistent wear of retainers.

“My retainers will last my lifetime?”

No, they will not, but they should last anywhere from 2 to 10 years depending on the type, how well you take care of them and if you do not lose them.

Most retainers will need to be replaced several times over the course of your life if you are dedicated to keeping your smile looking the same way it looked the day you got your braces or Invisalign completed.

Any Orthodontist in the world can make a new set of retainers for you. You do not need to “fly” home to your Orthodontist to get new retainers. (However, we will always be happy to see you!)

There is an exciting and money saving way to make sure you have enough retainers made in advance so that you never have to worry about losing them, breaking them or wearing them out and not having a replacement for a few months or years.

Vivera™ from Invisalign ™ is a system of clear retainers that are mailed to you over 12 months. You get a new set of retainers every 3 months. You can use them or store them (in your safe) for future use.

Wouldn’t it be great to know that if your dog chews your retainers, you do not need to get new impressions or molds of your teeth? Your replacement retainers are at your house and ready for you to start to wear.

We offer Vivera™ and it requires no impressions. We will do an intraoral scan with our iTero™ scanner and submit your digital images to Invisalign™ for manufacture of your 4 sets of retainers.

The good news is that you can get 4 sets of retainers for 50% off. Normally priced $1200, the price for Vivera™ is only $597.

Call our office at 916-435-8000 or email us for more information or to schedule your impression-free scan.


  1. says

    The suggestion of wearing retainers two or three times in a week is just for precaution or for ensuring that the new position of the teeth remains permanent. Any chance of change in the new position is minimized by this.

  2. Christine Probst says

    I just finished my invisAlign treatment and picked up my retainer which looks nothing like my invisalign (plastic trays), it is metal and plastic and uncomfortable to wear. Is the standard retainer the same as the trays and my dentist is just giving me something cheaper?

    • says

      There are many different types of retainers. I am not sure what your dentist gave you. I would discuss your concerns with your dentist at the next appointment. Invisalign does provide a great retainer system called VIVERA. I highly recommend you look into this retention system. You get 4 sets of retainers, all clear (like your aligners) and they are comfortable and durable. Your dentist can order them for you.

  3. @Christine Probst says

    Christine, You likely received a Hawley retainer (please see wiki entry to confirm). They have been around for some time, and I would not consider them a “cheaper” option. Slightly archaic, maybe, but they are quite sturdy (but not kid-proof, as nothing ever really is) – I have been using the same one for over a decade. Your doc may just be a little more old-school.


  4. andrea says

    I am from Scotland in the United Kingdom. I was wondering if you could please help me. I am fifty yrs of age and have one squint tooth at the top front of my mouth. Its heriditery and upsets me. There is nothing like this at my local dentists and i feel too old for braces but am very interested in vivera. Please reply as soon as possible. I would be very grateful.
    Andrea Drummond

    • says

      Dear Andrea,
      I am sorry for your current plight. However, unless you willing to jump a plane and come stateside, I would recommend you visit the Invisalign website to see if there are any qualified providers a bit closer to you.

      Good luck,
      Dr. C.

  5. Celia says

    @ Andrea (Scotland),

    I’m from London in the UK and have recently undergone the Invisalign treatment at an orthodontist on Harley Street, which was excellent and extremely professional. Google “Invisalign, UK” and I’m sure there will be a lot of dentists around the country that now do this treatment. Look out for Groupon / Wowcher etc vouchers as they often offer a treatment package at a huge discount, making it much more affordable.

    It’s definitely worth doing Invisalign and it’s never too late! I’m 35 and just got my teeth fixed, and I’m so glad I did. The braces are comfortable to wear, virtually invisible and a league away from the old train tracks.

    Good luck!

  6. Jeff Coley says

    I had braces from age 12 to age 16. I wore my retainer for about a year of two, then it broke.

    I have not had a retainer for 25 years, my teeth are still straight.

    • says

      Congratulations on investing in your smile and overall dental health!

      While we orthodontists do recommend lifetime retainer wear, there are a few “lucky” patients who are able to discontinue their retainers. Since everyone has a unique orthodontic problem, there are definitely some patients who will have less need for consistent retainer wear. Those patients who have more severe problems, or start treatment later in life, will definitely benefit from lifetime retainer wear.

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