How Long Should Patients Wear Their Retainers Post-Ortho?

Patients tend to want to spend as little time as possible in their retainers after orthodontic treatment. It’s common in my practice for patients to ask me how long they have to wear them, with the implicit understanding that an extended time period is undesirable.

As dentists, we don’t want to give the patient bad news, but we also want to ensure they receive the best healthcare possible. In this case, we can benefit most from looking at the question with an orthodontist’s perspective.

Though there isn’t a ‘right’ answer, we can find one that will serve our purposes best.

Why You Need a Strategy for Dealing With Questions About Retainers

I dislike questions about retainers because there isn’t a simple answer. It makes me uncomfortable when patients ask. For one thing, practicing dentistry has shown me the evidence that relapse occurs after ortho.

Patients will ask about retainers immediately at the end of their Invisalign trays or even years later when they still have a lingual wire. Instead of speculating about how to respond, I’d like to consult with an expert.

The short answer to orthodontic retention is that it’s never OK for patients to stop wearing retainers. But clearly this is not going to be satisfactory for many patients.

The long answer requires us to ask orthodontists:

  1. What with regard to retention is the orthodontist responsible for?
  2. When does their responsibility end?
  3. What do I do if I have a patient whose orthodontist cannot or will not see them for retention?
  4. Should I be responsible for a patient’s retention?
  5. If so, what should I know about retainers?

It’s likely we will have to deal with patients curious about their retainers. This means we should have a strategy in place to answer their questions.

Look for the next blog with answers to these questions soon … How do you respond to patients in this tricky situation? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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