Congratulations! You’ve just finished your Invisalign® treatment plan, and your final aligner has just come off. Your teeth are straight with a perfectly aligned bite, and your smile is gorgeous — and you want to keep it that way.
Once you’ve worn every Invisalign aligner in your orthodontic series, it’s time to shift gears and think about retention, also known as relapse prevention. Why? After being subjected to gentle, applied pressure for many months, your partially softened bone tissue makes your teeth prone to easy drifting movements back to their old positions.
Dr. Maria-Teresa Ioannou, and our expert team at Vida Dental Spa in Whitestone, New York, provide everything you need — including your first set of Vivera® clear retainers — to help you keep your flawless smile for life. Here’s what to expect in the lifelong retention phase.
Retainer use is a critical part of orthodontic after-care for one simple reason: The mechanisms that allow Invisalign to gradually reposition your teeth also leave them vulnerable to relapse as soon as you stop wearing your aligner trays. Let’s take a closer look.
Your teeth connect to your upper and lower jawbones with a resilient and supportive fibrous membrane called the periodontal ligament. This malleable tissue stretches on one side and compresses on the other as your Invisalign aligners apply gentle, precise pressure.
In response to your stretching periodontal ligaments and shifting teeth, your underlying bone tissue becomes softer and spongier to help facilitate tooth repositioning.
Once your teeth reach their desired positions, their periodontal ligaments readjust, and new bone tissue fills the gap around each socket to help them maintain proper alignment.
But this remodeling process can’t happen without assistance: Your ligaments, jawbone, and teeth need consistent support to maintain your new smile — at least until they become fully trained to preserve it on their own.
Wearing a retainer after your final aligner comes off gives your jawbone tissue the reinforcement it requires to hold your teeth more firmly in their new, correct positions as it rebuilds itself to accommodate this new alignment.
Without a set period of intensive retainer wear on the heels of any form of orthodontic care — whether Invisalign or traditional wire-and-bracket braces — your teeth would shift back out of alignment. There are two distinct periods for retainer wear:
Teeth are most vulnerable to drifting and relapse during the first year after orthodontic treatment, especially in the first few months. For this reason, you should wear your custom, removable retainers (which look just like clear aligners) for at least 22 hours a day for the first six months after your final treatment aligner.
If your teeth still need intensive support at the six-month mark, we may recommend a further three to six months of round-the-clock retainer wear. If they appear stable, we may clear you to move on to the maintenance phase.
After several months of intensive retainer wear, it’s time to enter the maintenance phase. In this lifelong smile-preserving phase, you only wear your retainer at night, as you sleep.
Long-term orthodontic retention usually begins with consistent nightly retainer wear and gradually tapers to consistent wear, meaning that you may eventually only need to wear your retainer three or four nights each week to maintain your Invisalign results.
While you have a selection of retainer types following orthodontic care, we recommend Vivera clear retainers to preserve your smile results. Vivera clear retainers are made by the same company that creates Invisalign aligners, and offer the following:
Vivera clear retainers come in multiple set packs, so you won’t have to worry about going without a retainer if you lose a set.
Do you have questions about retainer wear following Invisalign? We have answers. Call or click online to schedule an appointment today at Vida Dental Spa in Whitestone, New York.