There are many types of retainers that are worn after braces or invisalign, these retainers keep the teeth in place and stop them from shifting after they have been straightened. Removing the braces or invisalign are not the end of an orthodontic treatment, the next phase which is wearing a retainer is as important as the braces. This is because they help your teeth to maintain their new shape. These retainers can also provide minor corrections in some cases. 


Retainers are devices that are customized and designed to hold the teeth. It is worn after braces or orthodontic treatment to help the teeth maintain their new position. They are made to match individual teeth which means that no two retainers are the same in size and shape. These devices work by holding the teeth and preventing them from shifting back to their position before the orthodontic treatment. They can be made of wires or plastics. 


There are two broad categories of retainers: permanent retainers and removable retainers. 

i. PERMANENT RETAINERS: Also known as bonded or fixed retainers, permanent retainers are made of solid or twisted wires that are curved to fit the shape of the teeth. The wire used can be made of copper, titanium or nickel material, sometimes the material can be combined. The wires are fixed to the insides of the front teeth to keep them in place and stop movements, they can also be fixed on the lower teeth. 

They are called permanent because they cannot be removed unless by the orthodontist or dentist. They are used when the patient cannot take of removable retainers or when the teeth is likely to move back into their previous position. Some permanent retainers are left on the teeth while some are removed after a long time. 

Advantages of permanent types of retainers

  • Permanent retainers are not seen by others as they are fixed inside of the teeth. These retainers are invisible.
  • They are best for patients that cannot care for removable retainers like children.
  • There is no case of misplacement or loss.
  • Permanent retainers are made with wires so it is difficult to damage them.
  • These retainers do not affect speech.

Disadvantages of permanent types of retainers

  • There may be irritation on the tongue due to the metal wire fixed to your teeth.
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene may be difficult especially in children
  • Plaque may start to build up around the retainers

ii. REMOVABLE RETAINERS: Removable retainers are not fixed to the teeth, they can be removed and placed back. You can also clean them after each use. 

Advantages of removable retainers

  • The first advantage that removable retainers have over fixed ones is that you can remove them anytime you want to eat, drunk or brush. This makes it easier to maintain good dental hygiene.
  • They can be easily gotten from hospital. 
  • Removable retainers are easy to fix, they can be fixed by anyone not only doctors.

Disadvantages of removable retainers are as follows

  • Bacteria can grow in them if they are not cleaned
  • They are easily damaged if left carelessly
  • Removable retainers are easy to be lost when they are not in the mouth or in their case
  • They make the mouth to produce excess saliva.
  • Removing them often as you wish may not give the retainers enough time to work on the teeth.

There are two types of removable retainers:

i. Hawley Retainers: Hawley retainers are made of a plastic shell that covers the roof the moth and a thin wire that runs over the front of your teeth. The wire is responsible for helping the teeth maintain their shape and alignment. 

There are some advantages or reasons why some people choose Hawley retainers

  • They last longer than the other type of removable retainer.
  • Hawley retainers can be readjusted to fit your teeth more or to realign your teeth.
  • They are easily repaired when broken.
  • If handled and cared for properly, these retainers can last for years.
  • The upper and lower teeth can naturally touch each other with Hawley retainers.

There are some disadvantages of this type of retainer like:

  • They can be easily noticed by others as the wires pass over the front teeth.
  • Your speech can be affected by this retainers.
  • It is possible for your cheeks or lips to irritate especially the first week of getting these retainers. 

ii. Clear plastic or Essix Retainers: Just like their name, clear plastic retainers are made of clear plastic that are molded to fit the teeth. They are worn over the teeth and can fit the new position of the teeth.

Advantages of clear plastic retainers are:

  • They are invisible as they are made of plastic. 
  • Clear plastic retainers can be worn for a very long time because they are invisible.
  • There are very low chances of interfering or affecting speech like Hawley retainers.
  • They are more comfortable than other types of retainers.

Some disadvantages of clear plastic retainers are:

  • It is not possible to readjust the retainers if the teeth needs to be realigned, they can only be replaced.
  • They can affect speech more than permanent retainers does
  • When exposed to heat, clear plastic retainers can warp.
  • These retainers cannot be repaired when they are broken or damaged.
  • They can change color because of their transparent material.
  • It can trap liquid in them.
  • Clear plastic retainers do not allow the top and bottom teeth to touch each other.


We will look at the differences between permanent, Hawley and clear plastic retainers.

1. Material used in making the retainers: Permanent retainers are made with metal wires, clear plastic retainers are made with plastic and Hawley retainers are made with plastic or acrylic with metal wire.

2. Cost of the retainers: The cost of these retainers differs. Permanent retainers cost between $150-$500 for one line either upper or lower teeth. Most times, this cost is included in the cost of the brace. Hawley retainers can cost between $150-600. Dental insurance may cover the cost of this retainers. Clear plastic retainers cost between $400-$800. The first retainer is included in the orthodontic treatment you paid for. If you are getting new clear plastic retainers, you will have to pay for them. 

3. How long they last: Permanent retainers lasts indefinitely, this is why they are called permanent. They can only be removed by a dentist if they age and replaced immediately. Hawley retainers can last from a year to 20 years while clear plastic can last only for 6 to 12 months.


All types of retainers needs to be cared for to make them last longer and to keep the teeth healthy as well. 

Permanent retainers: Wearing permanent retainers requires that you thoroughly brush your teeth both front and back to be sure that all particles of foods are removed. You can also gently floss your teeth and your retainers too. Dental check-up is also recommended for regular cleaning of your teeth.

Removable retainers: These types needs care as well to avoid bacteria growing in them. The first thing you should do is to keep your retainers in their case when you remove them. This is help prevent misplacing or losing them. Remove them after eating and rinse your mouth thoroughly before placing the retainers in your mouth. Before you place them back, you should rinse them with warm water, this will help keep bacteria and germs off. 

Wash the retainers with soap and water at least once a week, use soft bristle brush to clean the insides and rinse with warm water. Avoid putting your retainers in hot water to avoid changing their shape. Remember not to eat or drink while wearing your retainers.


Everyone likes a free teeth without irritation or feeling of an object attached to the teeth but for those who have undergone orthodontic treatments, it is very important that they wear retainers to keep their teeth in their new shapes. You will have to wear retainers as long as you want the results of your braces or invisalign to last. If you remove these retainers, your teeth will slowly go back to their misaligned position.

You may have to wear retainers always so it is advised to go for the best type that will make you comfortable and last for a long time too to save cost.


Retainers are like maintenance tools, they help to maintain the results of orthodontic devices on the teeth. They can come in different types with various material do you can choose any that makes you comfortable. However, when choosing retainers you should consider some factors like the cost, how able you will be to care for it, the pros and cons of each. This will help you settle for the best.

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