What are the Different Types of Orthodontic Retainers?

By March 30, 2020 October 13th, 2020 Blog

So you’ve finally finished your orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign. It’s time to show off that brand new smile you’ve been waiting so patiently to see. But as exciting as it is to get your braces off or get rid of your last Invisalign aligner, treatment doesn’t quite stop there. After any treatment, it’s important to wear an orthodontic retainer to make sure your beautiful new smile lasts a lifetime.

What is an orthodontic retainer anyway and why do you have to wear one? Do you really have to wear it forever? Dr. Buddy has the answers to all of these questions — and so many more! Here, Davis Orthodontics shares everything you need to know about all the different types of orthodontic retainers. Let’s dive in.

What Does an Orthodontic Retainer Do?

For the duration of your braces or Invisalign treatment, your orthodontic device slowly guided your teeth into their ideal position. Now that you’re done with the treatment phase, you’ve graduated to the maintenance phase of your smile’s journey. An orthodontic retainer is the key to maintaining your perfect smile.

Your teeth and jaw have been through a lot since you started treatment. It’s only natural that they’ll want to relax a bit once they’re free from hardware. They might even shift back into their original position over time … and nobody wants that! This is where your orthodontic retainer comes in: as the name suggests, it will retain your teeth’s ideal positioning. Orthodontic retainers prevent your teeth from moving back to square one and keep them exactly where we want them to be.

And yes, you really do need to wear your retainer forever. For the first few months, you’ll need to wear it full time. After that, your teeth will be more or less locked into place, but you’ll still need to wear your retainer at night. This will make sure your teeth don’t relapse, which happens when they shift back to their natural place.

Which Type of Orthodontic Retainer is Right for Me?

Just like there’s a variety of orthodontic treatment options, there are also many different types of orthodontic retainers to choose from. Some are removable and others are fixed, some are made from clear plastic and others are made from metal wire. The type of retainer you choose for your post-braces or Invisalign care will depend on your unique situation. To help you decide which one is best for you, here’s a breakdown of the various types of orthodontic retainers:

  1. Hawley Retainers

Also known as wire retainers, Hawley retainers are removable devices made from a thin metal wire and either plastic or acrylic. The plastic/acrylic part is custom-made to fit the roof of your mouth, while the wire runs along the outside of your teeth to keep them aligned. While more durable than other types of retainers, they’re also more noticeable.

Pros:

  • When cared for properly, Hawley retainers are super durable and can last for years.
  • If you break your Hawley retainer, it could be repairable.
  • It can be adjusted to refine the fit.
  • Your upper and lower teeth can touch naturally with a Hawley retainer.
  • You can choose fun custom colors.

Cons:

  • Hawley retainers can affect your speech more than other types of retainers.
  • They’re more noticeable than other types of retainers.
  • The wire can cause irritation to your lips or cheeks at first.

Cost:

  • Hawley retainers cost between $150 to $340 on average.
  1. Vivera Retainers

Vivera retainers are the official Invisalign retainer. They’re custom-made using the same state-of-the-art technology as Invisalign and are designed specifically to complement your Invisalign treatment. Molded to perfectly fit the new position of your teeth, Vivera retainers help you keep your brand new smile. While most Invisalign patients will only require a Vivera Invisalign retainer, permanent retainers may be required in certain cases.

Pros:

  • Vivera retainers are virtually invisible.
  • They’re backed by the proven Invisalign system.
  • They’re more durable than other clear retainers.
  • They’re less likely to affect your speech than a Hawley retainer.
  • Since they’re removable, you can easily brush and floss to keep your teeth healthy.
  • You can still get a Vivera retainer if you haven’t had treatment with Invisalign.

Cons:

  • Since they can’t be adjusted, you’d need an entirely new retainer if you need realignment.
  • The plastic may warp if exposed to heat (including hot water).
  • They may become discolored over time.
  • They can’t be repaired if broken.
  • Your top and bottom teeth cannot touch naturally with a Vivera retainer.

Cost:

  • Vivera retainers come in four sets of retainers. The cost varies between $400 to $1000 for all four sets. 
  1. Essix Retainers

Another type of clear plastic retainer, Essix retainers are similar to Vivera retainers. They hold your teeth in the correct position and can even provide minor corrections to misaligned teeth. Essix retainers are made from a thinner plastic than Vivera retainers, which means they might not last as long as other types of retainers.

Pros:

  • Essix retainers are almost invisible.
  • They’re less likely to affect your speech than a Hawley retainer.
  • Since they’re removable, you can easily brush and floss to keep your teeth healthy.

Cons:

  • Since they can’t be adjusted, you’d need an entirely new retainer if you need realignment.
  • The plastic may warp if exposed to heat (including hot water).
  • They may become discolored over time.
  • They can’t be repaired if broken.
  • Your top and bottom teeth cannot touch naturally with an Essix retainer.

Cost:

  1. Permanent Retainers

Now that we’ve covered all the types of removable retainers, let’s talk about permanent retainers. They consist of a simple wire that’s bonded to the inside of your front teeth (usually the lower teeth) to keep them fixed in place. Permanent retainers are most commonly used for patients at high risk of relapse or people who are likely not to follow instructions for wearing a removable retainer. Permanent retainers can only be removed by a dentist or orthodontist.

Pros:

  • You don’t have to worry about how often to wear your retainer because it’s fixed in place.
  • It’s completely invisible to others.
  • It won’t affect your speech.
  • It can’t be misplaced or lost.
  • It’s not likely to break.

Cons:

  • Since you can’t remove a permanent retainer, it can be tricky to brush and floss properly. This can lead to plaque and bacteria build-up.
  • It can take time to get used to the feeling of a permanent retainer.
  • The metal wire may irritate your tongue.

Cost:

  • Permanent retainers cost around $225 to $550.

Still have questions about why you need to wear an orthodontic retainer or which kind of retainer is right for you? Call Davis Orthodontics today to chat.

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