Woman with Braces

Types of Retainers

At Elara Orthodonticswe are committed to provide highest quality of dental care to our patients. We employ some of the nation’s top doctors and dental specialists in our state of art office located on Richmond .

What Are Different Types of Retainers

There are many types and designs of retainers. The type of retainer that is most suitable for you will vary based on the type of treatment that was done and the original position of your teeth.

Your orthodontist will be the only one who will discuss all the retainer options with you and recommend the best type of retainer that works the best for you, after taking in consideration your own personal preferences. At Elara orthodontics, we proudly offer all kinds of retainers and our orthodontists will discuss your personalized retainer options in detail during your treatment.

Retainers are mainly categorized in two main groups:

  • Removable retainers
  • Fixed retainers (also known as permanent retainer)

Your orthodontic specialist may suggest removable or permanent retainers, or a combination of both that fit your custom needs.

Young Girl with Retainer
Young Girl with Retainer

Removable retainers

This type of retainers, as the name clearly suggests, can be removed by the patient when eating, brushing or flossing. Retention protocols vary based on different factors including but not limited to the type of tooth movement during treatment and the severity of the crowding or spacing before starting orthodontic treatment. Based on those details, your treating orthodontist will determine in detail the duration of full-time retainer wear, which is usually followed by night-time only wear, and gradually decreasing to once a week.

The two most commonly used removable retainers are either:

Hawley retainers:

Hawley retainers are the most recognized type of retainers and are also known as “traditional retainers” as they have been commonly used among orthodontists for decades. These retainers are made from hard colorful acrylic and orthodontic wire that will wrap around your teeth to maintain their position. Due to this structure, Hawley retainers are more rigid and durable compared to clear retainers. If your Hawley retainer breaks, it can possibly be repaired unlike the clear retainers which would need to be replaced. Another advantage when it comes to Hawley retainers is that they can be adjusted and tightened, which gives the orthodontist the ability to adjust any retainers that are not fitting properly either due to improper wear, accidents, or fabrication errors.

Hawley retainers can be bothersome to some patients as they might feel slightly bulky which requires a few days to get used to. Due to the orthodontic wire portion of it, it is also considered less esthetic compared to clear retainers. However, the good news is the acrylic part of the retainer can be custom designed with your favorite color and the wire crossing the front teeth can possibly be replaced with some clear and transparent rigid plastic to make it less visible.

Clear retainer:

Clear retainers, also known as “Essix retainers”, are similar to Hawley retainers in that they are also custom made for each patient. These vacuum formed retainers are made from clear and transparent plastic that makes them nearly invisible while wearing them. The clarity and esthetics of Essix retainers has increased the popularity of these retainers recently.

Even though clear retainers are less bulky and lighter than Hawley retainers, they can be less durable and might not last as long as traditional retainers do. For example, if you have a habit of grinding your teeth or clenching, clear retainers might not be the most suitable option for you. As this retainer fully covers all the surfaces of the teeth, brushing and flossing after each meal and before putting the retainer back on is of utmost importance to prevent trapping of the plaque within the retainer, which could lead to serious adverse effects to the health of your teeth and surrounding tissues.

Vivera retainers are a type of clear retainers that are made by Invisalign company using the same technologies used for Invisalign aligners. There is no difference in the functionality or appearance of Vivera retainer and regular Essix retainer, but since Vivera retainers come in a set of four retainers, they are sometimes preferred by some patients since the three backup retainers usually give them the peace of mind of avoiding potential issues if a retainer breaks. However, with the retainer assurance program that we offer at Elara orthodontics, we make it easy and inexpensive to replace a lost or broken retainer regardless of the type of the retainer you pick.

Fixed Retainers

Fixed retainers are a completely different appliance in that they are a piece of orthodontic wire or mesh that is bonded to the back of the teeth. They are also mostly known as “permanent retainers” because they cannot be removed by the patients. Don’t let the word permanent alarm you though, as of course these so-called permanent retainers can be easily removed by the orthodontist when needed. There is a wide variety of types of wires that can be used for fixed retainers, but they are all very delicate wires that can be bonded either to all six lower front teeth or they are only bonded to the lower canines. For some patients, upper fixed retainer might be recommended by the orthodontist. In that case, the permanent retainer is most commonly bonded behind the two front teeth, but it can also extend to cover four or all six upper front teeth. Unlike removable retainers that require a mold, or a scan of the teeth, the fixed retainers can be prepared chair side by the orthodontist on the day of removing braces. However, molding or scanning teeth prior to bonding a fix retainer is optional and some orthodontists prefer to do it that way.

If the teeth were severely rotated, crowded or spaced before orthodontic treatment, permanent retainers are recommended to hold the teeth firmly in place to prevent relapse. As these retainers are not removable by patients, it can be an advantage for those who are not compliant with wearing a removable retainer, and it guarantees that you will not lose your retainer like many do! On the other hand, because these retainers are cemented to the teeth, it makes it more challenging to keep the teeth clean and free of plaque and calculus over time. Therefore, proper flossing and brushing and regular dental cleaning with your dentist are very important if you have a fixed retainer in place.

The orthodontist will usually recommend the best retainer option for you based on your treatment. However, if you have any specific esthetic requests or concerns, we will work with you to ensure that you are able to wear your retainer without any issues to prevent any relapse of the perfect smile you worked so hard to get.


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