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What is a bonded retainer?


A bonded retainer, also known as a fixed or permanent retainer, is an orthodontic device that is attached permanently to the back of the teeth to keep them in place following straightening treatment with braces or aligners. Unlike Essix retainers, they are not removable and are kept in place by a dental adhesive.

Benefits of a bonded retainer

Bonded retainers can be applied to either the top teeth, lower teeth or both to maintain the position of the teeth. The retainer's permanent nature allows for long-term tooth alignment retention with minimal worry or effort on the wearer's part. They offer convenience that may appeal to some patients who don't want to worry about the more hands-on approach needed for removable Essix retainers.

Since bonded retainers are permanent, teeth are less likely to shift over time. That doesn't mean there aren't downsides, however. Cleaning the retainer can be laborious and flossing is a more time-intensive experience than with removable retainers. Additionally, the metal can break and require expensive repairs. And the dental adhesive can chip off more frequently than one would expect, meaning more trips to the orthodontist.

Bonded retainer vs. removable retainer

After braces or aligners, patients often have the choice between a permanent bonded retainer and a removable retainer like the Essix retainers Motto™ provides. Here is a breakdown of the differences between the two types:

Retainer utility

Suppose the orthodontist gives the patient a chance to decide between a bonded retainer or a removable retainer. In that case, it is important to understand the basic reasons why one retainer's utility may be preferable to the other.

A bonded retainer is fixed permanently to the back of the teeth. A bonded retainer could be the best choice if a patient wants to take a "fix it and forget it" approach to maintenance orthodontic care. While patients still must pay attention to cleaning, they do not need to take any time to remove the retainer and put it back in. It works in the background while the patient goes about their daily life.

A clear removable retainer may require slightly more care since it needs to be cleaned daily, but it also comes with a big selling point that often turns the tide for patients: flossing. With a bonded retainer, it becomes necessary to use special floss threaders or picks to floss properly, since the retainer essentially bisects the area the floss would normally go. Removable retainers avoid this problem completely and allow for a much more natural oral health care routine.

Retainer cost

If cost is a concern, a removable retainer from Motto™ might be the clear option. Bonded retainers usually start at about $350 and often cost more than $500. Removable retainers typically start at $150. This can be especially helpful for patients who can't get their insurance to cover permanent, bonded retainers. The cost of aligners as well as all other retainers can vary based on a patient’s specific needs.

Retainer material

A bonded retainer is a thin metal wire adhered to the back of the teeth. Removable retainers are usually made of a plastic material that fits over the teeth. Material matters for retainers in the same way it matters for clear aligners. Motto™ can provide more answers to questions about clear aligners, retainers and their materials on our website.

Permanent retainers are generally considered longer-term solutions because of the metal, but this metal can bend and warp over time without proper care. Removable retainers can also be damaged, but with good care, they are likely to hold up to the rigors of the patient's mouth.

When it comes to cleaning, removable retainers are easier to handle. A bonded retainer cannot be removed, so patients can only clean what they can reach. Flossing can be a pain, and plaque often builds up around the wire. A removable retainer, meanwhile, can be placed in a special, retainer-specific cleaning solution. It is also easier to see how clean a removable retainer is, compared with trying to find a way to light the back of the teeth to see how clean the bonded retainer is.

Let Motto™ answer all your bonded retainer questions today

If a bonded retainer is too much of a cleaning hassle or too expensive, meet with Motto™ specialist today. We can offer help and advice about how aligners work and how a removable retainer could be better than a bonded retainer.