How Long Do You Have to Wear Braces and a Retainer?

Posted by Clay Sims on Jun 28, 2018 4:26:00 PM

Finding out that you need to wear braces can be a good thing, but it can also be confusing and even a little scary. At Sims Orthodontics, we often find that our young patients require a bit of reassurance. Even when we tell them that our goal is to help them have a healthy, vibrant smile that will last them the rest of their lives, they still have questions.

One of the most common questions we get is this:

How long do you have to wear braces?

That’s a natural question to ask. When you get braces, it feels like a big change in your life. It affects what you can eat and how you look.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about the realities of braces. How long do you have to wear them? What can you expect? We’re here to help.

The Facts about Braces

Braces are designed to help straighten and realign teeth. They may also be useful for closing gaps between teeth. Ultimately, the goal of braces is to give you the beautiful and healthy smile you’ll have for the rest of your life.

Not all braces look the same. At Sims Orthodontics, we offer traditional metal braces, as well as ceramic and gold braces. We also offer Invisalign, which is a series of clear aligners that work well for most orthodontic problems.

The reason that braces must be worn over a significant period is that it takes time to realign teeth. The braces hold your teeth in place and gradually move them to a new position. Teeth are positioned in bone so as you might expect, it takes time to move teeth orthodontically through this bone.

How Quickly Do Braces Work?

You may need to wear braces for a variety of issues. Some of our patients have serious orthodontic issues while others have only a small problem with the alignment of their teeth. Braces may be the appropriate treatment for a wide array of issues.

A good rule of thumb is that most often, patients must wear their braces for a minimum of 18 months and a maximum of two years. In some cases, the time may be shorter.

It’s important for you to know that some of the specifics are in your control. Some of the things you can do to minimize the time you must wear braces include:

  • Brushing your teeth three times a day
  • Flossing daily
  • Avoiding restricted foods, such as caramel, hard candy, ice, nuts, and taffy
  • Wearing elastics/headgear as instructed

We know that it can be difficult to eliminate foods and care for your teeth, but sticking to your prescribed regimen will ensure that your braces work and that you don’t end up with other dental problems as a result of poor oral hygiene.


The Facts about Retainers

Retainers can be used to treat minor orthodontic problems such as a small gap between teeth, but they are mainly used to hold teeth in place after the braces come off.

If you wear braces, your retainer will play an important role. Your braces realign your teeth, but the retainer will hold the teeth in their new position after the removal of braces.  Retainers are important for adolescents and adults, but especially for adolescents who are still growing.

That’s why your orthodontist may tell you to wear a retainer after your braces come off. In some cases, you may need to wear it around the clock for some time and then wear it only at night. In other cases you may only need to wear it at night.

The most important thing you need to know is that wearing a retainer will help make the beautiful smile your braces gave you a permanent thing. Straightening teeth is a complex process and retainers are an important step.

How Quickly Do Retainers Work?

Retainers are almost always part of the process of realigning your teeth. Teeth want to move back to where they were before braces. Let’s talk about how long they are necessary.

A good rule of thumb is that you will need to wear a retainer every day for at least two years and more than that if your teeth continue to move.

The most important time to wear a retainer is immediately after your braces come off. At that time, the position of your teeth will be correct but not permanent. Wearing a retainer will ensure that you don’t run into a problem and undo the work that your braces did.

It’s common for patients to wear a retainer all the time (except when they’re eating) for the first several months after we remove their braces. After that, they can usually switch to wearing the retainer at night.

Over time, you may be able to cut back your retainer use to just a few nights a week. During this time, it’s important to follow your orthodontist’s orders about wearing your retainer. It’s also a must to clean your retainer properly and let us know if you have any discomfort or pain associated with wearing your retainer.

We know it can feel like a burden to wear a retainer, but we require it because it’s an essential part of your orthodontic treatment. The retainer will keep your teeth properly aligned and ensure that your smile stays as beautiful and healthy as possible.


In most cases, patients who wear  braces will get a two-part treatment that includes wearing a retainer after their braces come off. All told, you should expect to wear braces or a retainer for between three and five years. As we mentioned earlier, you can do your part by sticking to the regimen specified by your orthodontist and taking good care of your teeth.

To learn more about Sims Orthodontics and our treatments for adolescents and adults, please click here. We’re here to make you smile!

Topics: Braces

Delivering impact beyond smiles. 

Our team is dedicated to creating beautiful and healthy smiles all over the Gulf Coast. We reach beyond the technical knowledge and mechanics of our treatment plans to deliver respect, concern, and love.

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