Three Types of Retainers


Retention after active treatment is a vital part of your orthodontic treatment. There are three basic types of retainers available in our office.

Removable Hawley Retainer: A Hawley has a thin, tongue-shaped piece of acrylic molded to fit your mouth with a wire that holds your teeth in position. The Hawley retainer is simple, durable and easily removed. It’s even possible to personalize it by choosing different colors and designs for the plastic arch. It can also be adjusted to correct minor tooth movements.

Essix (Clear Plastic) Retainer: This popular style of retainer is the clear aligner-type, which looks similar to the Invisalign® tray system. These retainers are custom-made of thin, transparent plastic which is designed to fit precisely over your teeth. We make them on site to be delivered as soon as possible. The main advantage of Essix retainers is that they’re invisible, with no wire to show. These retainers are also easy to remove, but they may be somewhat less durable than the Hawleys.

Bonded Lingual Retainer: This system uses a custom-fit wire that is bonded to the tongue side of the front teeth. It is not removable by the wearer, but can be easily removed by the orthodontist as needed. We recommend keeping the fixed retainer for a minimum of two years following the braces removal. This type of retainer is recommended when there is a high risk that teeth could revert to their former position or when there is a risk of patient non-compliance with removable retainer wear.
When a patient opts for the bonded lingual retainer, a removable retainer is also delivered. The removable retainer should be worn over the fixed wire nightly. This ensures that the positions of all teeth are maintained and it also serves as a back-up retainer should the fixed wire become detached.

A Period of Adjustment

After a short time, most people adjust quite well to wearing a retainer. Some may find that they produce more saliva than usual for a day or so after first wearing any type of retainer. This is a normal reaction to a foreign object in the mouth. You may also find it a little harder to talk normally at first, but that problem will soon disappear. Of course, removable retainers should always be taken out when you eat, drink or brush your teeth. Following the removal of the braces, patients without a fixed retainer will be expected to comply with the following schedule:

  • The first six months: Fulltime wear
  • The next six months: After school hours and nightly wear
  • The next twelve months: Nightly wear
  • Post two year mark: 3-4 nights per week

Following active orthodontic treatment, retainer wear is crucial to maintaining the new alignment of the teeth. We tend to see the most relapse within the first two years of having the braces removed, during major growth or hormone changes and with the natural aging process of bone loss or changes in gum support. To maintain your beautiful smile, some component of retainer wear is recommended for life. 

Maintaining – and Retaining – Your Retainer

  1. Wear your retainer as instructed.
  2. Always keep your retainer in the case when not in use.
  3. Keep the retainer clean by brushing it with soap and water and rinse thoroughly. Over the counter denture cleaners are also safe for retainers.
  4. Please bring your retainers to all appointments for adjustments.