You’re on the last stretch of your Invisalign treatment plan. You’re looking forward to strutting that dazzling, straight smile around town. You would be even more excited if you hadn’t just read somewhere that you’ll have to wear retainers all day every day for the first year, which doesn’t sound right to you. We are here to answer all your questions regarding Invisalign aftercare. Whether you are considering, are wearing, or have worn Invisalign clear aligners, this post will be worthwhile.
The reason teeth straightening techniques like Invisalign work so well is because the human jaw is adjustable and the teeth come along with it. Here’s the catch though: Your teeth will still remember their original position, correct or not. If you don’t use retainers to hold them in place, teeth will shift back to where they were. A retainer not only strengthens teeth’s supporting ligaments but also gives your jaw time to stabilize, similar to how a concrete beam needs support until the cement in it dries. Wearing a retainer is even more important in the first 12 to 24 months when your teeth are at greatest risk of relapse.
Every patient is unique, meaning the aftercare plan your dentist creates for you may not be the same as your coworker’s or neighbor’s. The general rule of thumb is that the longer the corrective treatment takes, the longer you’ll need to wear a retainer to maintain the results. Orthodontists typically recommend wearing retainers full time for at least six months after the last Invisalign aligner. Full time means only taking out your retainers to eat, drink, brush, and floss.
Once you’re officially finished with your clear aligners, your dentist will custom-fit a retainer for you to wear for around six months. This duration isn’t fixed, though, and depends on your unique situation. After six months or so, your dentist will examine your mouth to make sure your teeth haven’t shifted before allowing you to transition to wearing the retainer for a shorter period. Your teeth are unique to you, meaning your step-down schedule is also tailored to your needs.
After a year or more of wearing retainers full time, your jawbone will most likely have completed its remodeling process. This means it’s now able to retain its corrected position. If that’s true for you, your dentist will allow you to switch to wearing your retainers nightly for at least another year. Once your year is up, you can get away with wearing your retainers less often. Most people choose to wear theirs four to five times a week.
At this stage in your aftercare, a few nights off won’t undo much of your progress. However, if you feel your retainers have gotten too tight, that can be a sign that your teeth are still shifting, and you may need to increase the number of nights you wear them.
This is probably not what you want to hear, but it must be said: You’ll have to wear a retainer for the rest of your life after Invisalign treatment (or any other orthodontic treatment) to maintain a straight smile. This recommendation often surprises most patients, but without consistent wear of retainers, there’s a big chance that the beautiful set of straight teeth you’ve come to love will not be there forever. So the only way to guarantee your teeth won’t move is to use some form of retention, like retainers.
Whether you are still on the fence about which orthodontic treatment to choose or have just completed your Invisalign treatment, retention will be a lifelong commitment. But it sure beats having to undergo orthodontic treatment all over again! If you have questions about Invisalign treatment or aftercare, visit us at our First Dental Associates office or schedule your evaluation today!