Understand the Difference Between These 4 Types of Dental Retainers Before It Costs You Thousands

Understand the Difference Between These 4 Types of Dental Retainers Before It Costs You Thousands

Dental retainers are an essential part of orthodontic treatment, ensuring that teeth stay in their new, correct positions after braces are removed. Choosing the right type of retainer is crucial for maintaining a perfect smile. In this blog post, we’ll explore the various types of retainers available and the differences between them.

What are Dental Retainers?

Retainers are custom-made orthodontic devices designed to hold teeth in position. They are typically used after the removal of braces but can also be employed for other orthodontic treatments. Their primary function is to prevent teeth from gradually shifting back to their original position, a process known as relapse.

Types of Retainers

1. Hawley Retainers

  • Description: The Hawley retainer, a traditional and widely used type, features a metal wire that surrounds the teeth and holds them in place. This wire is attached to an acrylic base plate, which is molded to fit comfortably inside the mouth, either on the roof or along the lower gums. The design of a Hawley retainer allows for adjustments, which is beneficial if minor tooth movements are necessary. These retainers are known for their robustness and longevity.
  • Pros: Highly durable, can be adjusted by an orthodontist if needed, and have a longer lifespan. They are removable, making oral hygiene easier to maintain.
  • Cons: More noticeable due to the metal wire, potentially uncomfortable initially due to the thickness of the acrylic plate, and can affect speech.

2. Essix Retainers

  • Description: Clear plastic retainers, commonly known as Essix retainers, are made from a transparent, thin plastic material. They are crafted to fit over the entire arch of teeth, similar to a thin, clear mouthguard. This design makes them less visible when worn, appealing to those who are conscious about the appearance of retainers. The plastic is custom-molded to the patient's teeth, ensuring a snug and comfortable fit. Although they are less durable than Hawley retainers, they offer a discreet way to maintain orthodontic results.
  • Pros: Virtually invisible when worn, lightweight, and more comfortable for many users. They do not affect speech as much as Hawley retainers.
  • Cons: Less durable and may need replacing more often. Can warp if exposed to high heat, although unlikely. 

3. Fixed Retainers

  • Description: Fixed retainers, also known as permanent or bonded retainers, consist of a thin metal wire that is bonded directly to the inner surface of the front teeth. This type of retainer is usually recommended for patients who had significant tooth alignment issues before treatment. The wire holds the teeth in their final position and is not visible when smiling or talking. Fixed retainers are a long-term solution, often remaining in place for several years.
  • Pros: Constant retention without the need for removal, completely invisible from the front, and no risk of being lost or forgotten.
  • Cons: Difficult to clean around the wire, which can lead to plaque buildup and gum problems if oral hygiene is not meticulously maintained. Not suitable for all patients, depending on their dental and periodontal health.

4. Vivera Retainers

  • Description: Vivera retainers are a premium type of clear retainer made by the makers of Invisalign. They are similar to Essix retainers but are manufactured using a proprietary technology that makes them more durable and less likely to crack or warp. Vivera retainers are made from a thicker clear plastic, and each set typically includes multiple retainers, ensuring a longer-lasting solution.
  • Pros: High durability, greater resistance to wear and tear, and a comfortable fit. They offer the same aesthetic benefits as other clear retainers, being virtually invisible.
  • Cons: Generally more expensive than other clear retainer options. Like other clear retainers, they require diligent care and cleaning.

Choosing the Right Retainer

The choice of retainer depends on various factors:

  • Individual Needs: Depending on the specific orthodontic treatment and the patient's lifestyle, an orthodontist might recommend a particular type of retainer.
  • Comfort and Convenience: Some people prefer removable Essix retainers for ease of cleaning, while others may opt for fixed retainers to avoid the responsibility of remembering to wear them.
  • Aesthetics: Those who are conscious about their appearance might prefer Essix retainers for their less noticeable nature.
  • Durability and Cost: Hawley retainers, while more visible, are known for their durability and cost-effectiveness in the long run compared to Essix retainers, which may need more frequent replacement.

Maintenance of Retainers

Regardless of the type, all retainers require proper maintenance:

  • Cleaning: Regular cleaning is necessary to prevent plaque buildup and odor. The cleaning method may vary depending on the type of retainer.
  • Storage: When not in use, retainers should be stored in a case to prevent damage.
  • Regular Check-Ups: Regular visits to the orthodontist are essential to ensure the retainer is functioning correctly and to make adjustments if needed.


Choosing the right retainer is a critical step in maintaining your orthodontic results. Discuss with your orthodontist to determine which type best suits your needs and lifestyle. With proper care and maintenance, your retainer will help keep your smile straight and beautiful for years to come.

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