Question: How long do I need to wear my retainer?
Answer: As long as you want your teeth to stay straight :).
Scientific articles published in the "American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics" show an enormous variation in how long you need to wear your retainers. These articles indicate that there is no way to predict how teeth may move without retainers. About half of the undesired tooth movement takes place in the first two years after you stop wearing your retainer.
The literature has conflicting information on the influence on wisdom teeth on crowding of teeth. Generally, orthodontists do not believe that wisdom teeth will be the cause or sole cause of malalignment after treatment. Still, it is generally recommended to have wisdom teeth taken out, as we have more than enough teeth for proper function, and this minimizes the possibility of complications from partially impacted teeth, such as acute gum infections, pain, and swelling.
Some crowding of the lower front teeth may be part of the natural aging process similar to greying hair and wrinkled skin. There are still pressures on the teeth after treatment, such as food, the tongue, grinding, and muscle tone. Unfortunately, everything in the world has a tendency towards disorder. Teeth are not an exception. As such, the only way to ensure continued satisfactory alignment is by the use of retainers to some degree, for life.
When it comes time to take braces off, our team of orthodontic professionals will discuss various retainer options with you. Generally, we place a fixed lingual retainer in the lower arch, and provide a removable retainer for the upper jaw. We also offer essix (clear-style mouthguard) retainers. Each option has its inherent and disadvantages, and we will try to find the options that best suit your individual situation.
Our Markham braces patients start off on a full time schedule of wearing retainers for the first few months. They then taper wear down about an hour per month until wearing aligners only at night. We advise our patients to wear retainers to sleep indefinitely. Many of our patients become accustomed to wearing retainers and feel that it is awkward if they go to bed without them! Let it be known that those who maintain straight teeth have a secret... they still wear their retainer!