Types of Retainers

Getting fitted with a retainer is the next step in the orthodontic care process following braces or aligners. Retainers aim to keep the teeth straight after treatment. However, not all retainers are created equal and it may be beneficial to understand the different types of retainers available to you. This article will detail the various types of retainers and how they work.

What are the different types of retainers?

An orthodontist considers a range of factors when prescribing a retainer. The shape of the teeth, alignment of the jaw and general oral health are all important factors to evaluate.

Permanent retainers

Permanent retainers offer patients a chance to go about their daily lives while their retainer works its magic in the background. These retainers cannot be removed, and include a thin metal wire stuck to the back of the teeth with dental adhesive. They are also known as fixed, bonded or lingual retainers.

Pros of permanent retainers

A permanent retainer requires less hands-on interaction than other options. A patient must only think about the wire when brushing or flossing. There is no extra removal or cleaning process outside of continuing a standard oral health care routine.

Additionally, permanent retainers cannot be seen. If discretion is important, this feature may be appealing. They reside on the back of the teeth, away from prying eyes.

Finally, permanent retainers tend to last longer than other options because of the durability of the metal wire.

Cons of permanent retainers

These types of retainers eliminate the constant process of removing and refitting, but permanent retainers have some notable downsides. Flossing is particularly laborious since the wire cuts across the middle of the teeth. To reach the gums, patients must use special floss threaders or picks. These products are as effective as normal floss when appropriately used but introduce an extra step in the process that could be burdensome.

Permanent retainers, while durable, are prone to breaking or warping due to human error - and a nonfunctional permanent retainer may require expensive repairs. It is also challenging to know if you've completely cleared the wire of plaque and debris since viewing the back of the teeth takes work.

Cost is also a factor to consider. Generally, permanent retainers have a higher base cost, starting at about $350 and often going over $500.

Hawley removable retainers

Hawley removable retainers are in some ways the happy medium between permanent retainers and removable plastic Essix retainers. This type of retainer includes a metal wire pressed against the teeth and a plastic or acrylic plate pressed up against the roof of the mouth. They are usually worn at night and can be removed at any time.

Pros of Hawley retainers

This type of retainer is easy to mold to the patient's mouth and can be adjusted without much fuss. Hawley retainers are made of durable metal and acrylic. While not immune to damage, these materials are long-lasting and are difficult to damage. The removable nature of the retainer offers convenience. The orthodontist may not require it to be worn in social situations, and being able to remove the retainer could make cleaning easier.

Plastic Essix retainers are molded to the teeth, making them potentially harder to clean; Hawley retainers have fewer nooks and crannies, making cleaning a more simplified process.

Cons of Hawley retainers

While being able to remove your retainer is certainly a consideration, it can be challenging to maintain a low profile if you have a Hawley retainer. This type of retainer has a wire that sits on the front of your teeth, which can be noticeable when you speak or smile. Additionally, the plate that covers the roof of your mouth may make it difficult to speak clearly, which is less of an issue with permanent or Essix retainers.

Comfort could be an issue as well. The plastic or acrylic plate could irritate the roof of the mouth, and the metal wire could make the teeth feel compressed. Hawley retainers contain more parts than permanent or Essix retainers, raising the possibility of discomfort or irritation.

Hawley retainers also cost around $350 to $500, potentially making them too expensive for some patients.

Essix removable retainers

Essix removable retainers from Motto™ offer the discretion of a permanent retainer and the convenience of a Hawley retainer in one package. This type of retainer is a plastic device that fits over the teeth to keep them in place. Essix devices are clear and transparent, able to be removed at any time.

Pros of Essix retainers

Motto™'s Essix retainers are more convenient and usually less expensive than other types of retainers. An orthodontist takes a mold of your teeth and forms a plastic retainer that fits over them, usually for nighttime wear. This type of retainer fits snugly over the teeth and can be removed for eating and cleaning.

The clear plastic material ensures they are invisible. This transparency also helps any dirt or grime stand out, making it easier to clean them comprehensively. Essix retainers are generally cheaper than other retainers, starting at around $150.

Cons of Essix retainers

For many people, Essix retainers offer the fewest downsides among the types of retainers. The grooved design of the retainer may make cleaning more time-intensive, as plaque tends to get deep in the cracks. Additionally, the removability and transparency could raise the risk of misplacing the retainer and being unable to find it.

FAQs about retainer types

What is the most common type of retainer?

Currently, clear plastic Essix retainers like the ones offered by Motto™ Clear Aligners are the most popular type of retainer. They are cheaper to purchase and replace, provide greater convenience and discretion, align the teeth comfortably and require less overall maintenance. If you’re interested, Motto™ has all the answers to questions about clear aligners and retainers.

Which type of retainer lasts the longest?

Permanent retainers generally last the longest due to the durability of the metal wire. The lack of removability also eliminates external factors that could damage the metal. Hawley and Essix retainers are also highly durable but slightly less so. While Essix retainers are made of less durable materials, they are likely harder to damage accidentally. A toothbrush or wayward floss can bend a metal wire, but it's difficult to damage hard plastic unintentionally.

Which retainer is the most comfortable?

Comfort varies by patient, but many patients praise the comfort offered by Essix retainers. Permanent retainers can get food stuck in them constantly and may feel strange fused to the back of the teeth. Hawley retainers are removable but have multiple parts, including a plastic plate covering the roof of the mouth. Essix retainers, meanwhile, are the only type of retainer that fits comfortably over the teeth.

Find out more about retainers after Motto™ clear aligners

After completing your aligner treatment with Motto™, you'll receive a retainer to keep your results in place. Come in today to learn more about how clear aligners work and the importance of retainers following your aligner treatment.