What Happens After Clear Aligner Treatment Is Completed?

An Orthodontist handing over a set of retainers to his patient after their braces treatment journey has ended

If you find yourself here, chances are you’ve successfully completed your clear aligner treatment/teeth-straightening journey and are now poised to reveal that hard-earned, radiant smile.

Your reflection in the mirror should not only showcase a facial – turned physical – transformation but also a noticeable sense of pride and joy at having made it. 🙌

But at this point, two important questions arise: 

What’s next after the completion of your clear aligner treatment? 

And how do you ensure the longevity of this newfound smile, preventing any unwelcome shifts in your teeth?

Now, finishing clear aligner treatment isn’t just a noteworthy achievement; it signals the commencement of a new phase in your oral health trajectory. 

Here, your orthodontist, acting as your guide through this transformative experience, may recommend the continued use of retainers

This article shines the spotlight on the above and other practices that will fortify your success with clear alignment therapy. The goal, now, is to ensure that your enviably straightened teeth remain in their newfound positioning over the long haul. 

Why Do You Need to Wear a Retainer after Braces or Clear Aligner Treatment?

An orthodontist handing over a set of retainers to his patient at the end of their aligner treatment
An orthodontist handing over a set of retainers to his patient at the end of their aligner treatment

The curtain may have fallen on the main act of your treatment, but the encore is just as crucial. 

Without adequate orthodontic support for your teeth post-aligner therapy, there’s a serious risk of relapse – a subtle drift back towards their original positions. 

This is where the retainer takes center stage, acting as a steadfast guardian against any potential regression.

What do retainers do?

A retainer is a custom-made device that fits over your teeth and holds them in place. It helps your teeth to settle in their new position and allows the surrounding bone and tissue to adjust accordingly. In turn, it ensures that your investment in a straight smile lasts a lifetime.

According to a systematic review of 18 studies, the risk of dental relapse was significant with clear aligner treatment – and retainers were essential to prevent teeth from moving back.

So, wearing a retainer is not optional but mandatory if you want to preserve your treatment results.

What types of retainers are available and how to choose the best one for you?

Types of fixed teeth retainers
Types of fixed teeth retainers

When it comes to retainers, it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario. There are distinct options, neatly divided into two categories: removable and fixed. 

Here’s a breakdown:

Basic Retainer TypesProsCons
Removable Retainers Discreet and comfortable
Easy to clean, you can brush and floss easily
Minimum maintenance
More noticeable and may cause initial discomfort.
Potential interference with oral hygiene increases risk
Fixed Retainers Offers reliable and continuous support

Doesn’t need frequent replacements 
More noticeable and may cause initial discomfort.
Potential interference with oral hygiene increasing risk
Differences between Removable and Fixed retainers 

The ideal retainer for you boils down to your individual needs and preferences, guided by the expertise of your dentist or orthodontist. They’ll consider your lifestyle, oral hygiene habits, and orthodontic condition to recommend the type that aligns seamlessly with your smile journey.

In essence, it’s not just about the type of retainer; it’s about finding the one that not only fits in your mouth but also seamlessly fits into your life. 

Your journey to a lasting, confident smile is unique, and your choice of retainer should reflect that uniqueness.

A research article titled “Compliance with retainer wear in the first year: An analysis of 320 cases” suggests that compliance with retainer wear is one of the most challenging aspects of orthodontic treatment.

Source: https://www.jwfo.org/article/S2212-4438%2818%2930012-2/pdf

You may also have the option to combine both types of retainers, for example, by wearing a fixed retainer on your lower teeth and a removable retainer on your upper teeth. 

The most important thing is to follow your orthodontist’s instructions and to wear your retainer as prescribed.

How long and how often do you need to wear your retainer after clear aligner treatment?

The roadmap to maintaining that post-clear aligner radiance isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. The duration and frequency of retainer wear post-treatment are intricately tailored to your unique case, guided by the sage advice of your dentist or orthodontist.

Here’s what you need to know:

Guideline for Full-Time Wear: In the initial months post-treatment, the spotlight is on full-time retainer wear – except for the moments when you’re savoring a meal, enjoying a drink, or diligently brushing those radiant teeth.

Transition to Night-Time Wear: As the alignment settles in, the wear time gradually shifts to the serene night hours. It’s a gradual evolution, mirroring the unique rhythm of your teeth’s adaptation.

Long-Term Nightly Commitment: The encore that ensures lasting harmony involves nightly wear for at least a year, followed by a measured cadence of a few nights per week – a commitment that extends throughout your life.

Why this enduring commitment to your retainer?

It’s because your teeth are in a constant battle with various forces – the rhythmic cadence of chewing, the articulate beats of speaking, the gentle sway of breathing. 

Coupled with genetic and environmental factors, these forces can coax your teeth into subtle movements over time.

According to a Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine study, approximately 50% of orthodontists prescribe removable retainers to their patients after completing treatment with braces1. They also recommend wearing the retainers every day for nine months and after that reducing the duration to wearing the retainers every night.

Smile Maintenance Beyond Retainers

A patient brushing and flossing diligently and drinking  from a straw
A patient brushing and flossing diligently and drinking from a straw

Your post-aligner treatment smile deserves a spotlight that extends beyond mere retainer wear. 

Let’s explore impactful measures to ensure the longevity of your newfound alignment.

Options Beyond Retainers:

Critical Monitoring:

  • Post-treatment, regular dental check-ups are vital.
  • Dentists monitor oral health, catching potential issues early to preserve orthodontic results.

Oral Hygiene Practices:

  • Brushing, flossing, and mouthwash routines are fundamental for cavity and gum disease prevention.

Mindful Eating:

  • Continue the wisdom of mindful eating.
  • Avoid excessively hard or sticky foods to prevent damage to teeth and appliances.

Occlusal Adjustment:

  • Reshaping teeth for improved fit and function.
  • Reduces interferences that may cause unwanted tooth movement or wear.

Periodic Refinement:

  • Wearing additional clear aligners to correct minor relapses.
  • A proactive approach for optimal esthetic and functional results.

Habits and Dietary Considerations:

  • Refrain from habits like nail-biting, teeth-grinding, or chewing on pens.
  • Promotes the longevity of both teeth and retainers.

Stain and Decay Prevention:

  • Steer clear of foods or drinks that stain or erode teeth.
  • Rinse or brush after consuming items like coffee, tea, berries, or acidic foods.

Teeth Whitening:

  • Consider over-the-counter products or professional treatments.
  • Boosts confidence and enhances your radiant smile.

Cosmetic Dentistry Options:

Veneers, crowns, bonding, or contouring can correct minor alignment flaws.

In essence, beyond the realm of retainers lies a comprehensive approach to preserving your treatment results. 

Embrace these impactful measures, and let your radiant smile be the enduring masterpiece it deserves to be.

Remember, our orthodontic team is here to support you every step of the way. If you need guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out.

ClearPath Ortho has a network of certified and experienced dentists and orthodontists who can guide you through every step of your treatment. ClearPath Ortho also offers flexible payment plans and a satisfaction guarantee to ensure that you get the best value for your money. 

If you have specific queries or would like to schedule a consultation, fill out the contact form below. 

Your dream smile awaits – let’s make it a reality together!

Fill out the contact form below and get started on your clear aligner journey today. You deserve to smile with pride and joy!


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