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The pros and cons of a permanent retainer

Discover the advantages and challenges of permanent retainers vs. other retainers in maintaining your straight smile.

Are you at the end of your braces or Motto clear aligners journey, wondering what's next when it comes to retaining your newly aligned smile? There are various types of retainers you can choose from these days, but how do you narrow down which one is best for you? We’ll delve into the world of permanent retainers, a choice many are considering for keeping that beautiful smile in place. You will understand what permanent retainers are all about, their upsides and downsides, and how they stack up against other options. 

Retainers are more than just a dental accessory. They are a commitment to your smile's future. Choosing the right retainer is like choosing a trusted companion for your teeth, one that quietly works behind the scenes, ensuring that every laugh, every word, and every smile remains as bright as the day your braces or aligners came off. It's about peace of mind, knowing your hard earned teeth alignment won't shift or change. 

And let's not forget, while your retainer is working effectively to maintain your straight smile, a permanent or clear retainer is nearly out of sight. This offers an aesthetic advantage that’s hard to beat. Your smile reflects your journey and a retainer honors that journey every step of the way. Now, let’s explore permanent retainers and how they compare to other options in the world of orthodontics.

Lower teeth graphic with a permanent retainer and labeled PERMANENT RETAINER.

What is a permanent retainer?

A permanent retainer, often referred to as a fixed or bonded retainer, is a thin, custom fitted wire, usually made of stainless steel or other sturdy metal, snugly attached to the back of your teeth. It's your secret ally in keeping your teeth perfectly aligned after orthodontic treatments, such as braces or clear aligners. These retainers are practically invisible and stay in place 24/7. 

Having a permanent retainer means you're investing in long-term stability for your smile. Unlike removable retainers, which rely on your diligence to wear them as directed, a fixed retainer is always at work without you needing to raise a finger. This means less worry about forgetting to put it in and no concerns about losing it. It's a hassle-free solution, especially ideal for those leading busy lives or for younger patients who might struggle with the responsibility of a removable retainer. By choosing a permanent retainer, you're choosing peace of mind, knowing that your smile stays aligned, day and night, without any extra effort on your part. With it, you can confidently move forward, knowing your smile is as stable as it is stunning. 


Graphic with checkmarks listing pros of permanent retainers: Always on duty, Low fuss, Stealthy design, Set and forget.

The pros of permanent retainers

Permanent retainers are a game-changer for keeping your smile perfectly aligned, with no extra effort on your part. Here are the standout benefits they bring to the table, making them an advantageous choice for simplicity and effectiveness: 
  
1. Always on duty: These retainers offer continuous support, preventing any unwanted movement. They protect your smile around the clock to ensure your teeth alignment stays securely in place. Permanent retainers give you one less thing to worry about in your busy life. 
  
2. Low fuss: Forget about the daily in and out routine of removable retainers like the Hawley retainer or clear retainers. A permanent retainer blends seamlessly into your dental care routine. Brush, floss, and you're good to go. This means no more worrying about losing them or forgetting to put them back in after a meal. They're the low maintenance, high reward option for anyone who values simplicity and effectiveness in their dental care routine
  
3. Stealthy by design: They're hidden behind your teeth, making them the perfect choice if you're not keen on showing off your dental gear. This covert approach means you can carry on with your day-to-day life without anyone being the wiser about your orthodontic treatment. You can feel empowered to smile confidently in photos, at interviews, or on dates. 
  
4. Set and forget: Once in place, these retainers don't need your daily attention, making them a favorite for the forgetful and the busy bees. They’re the perfect companion for anyone who wants to keep their post-treatment life as uncomplicated as possible. No more nightly retainer routines, just a continuous assurance that your smile stays in place, exactly how it should be. 


Graphic with checkmarks listing cons of permanent retainers: Cleaning challenge, Wear and tear, Not forever, Initial awkwardness.

The cons of permanent retainers

While permanent retainers have their advantages, it's important to consider the challenges they may present: 

1. Cleaning challenge: Flossing and cleaning can be tricky at first, but with the right tools and floss for permanent retainers, it becomes manageable and easy. Special flossers or interdental brushes help to prevent plaque buildup around the retainer. With consistent diligence, this simple step in your hygiene routine will help to keep your smile healthy
  
2. Wear and tear: They're tough, but not invincible. You might need a quick fix or replacement down the line. Just like any other piece of precision equipment, your retainer requires care and attention. Regular check-ups with your orthodontist will ensure it's always in tip-top shape, ready to protect your smile day in and day out. 
  
3. Not forever: 'Permanent' is a bit of a misnomer. Although permanent retainers are made for the long-haul, like all good things, they might eventually need updating or replacing. Regular check-ups with a dental professional will ensure any adjustments or replacements needed to keep and maintain a lasting result for your pearly whites. 
  
4. Initial awkwardness: Some might notice a brief change in their speech after getting a permanent retainer. This is typically a short-lived experience, as your tongue soon adapts to its new neighbor. It's a new sensation, but before you know it, you'll forget it's even there as your mouth will quickly adapt. 

Comparing permanent retainers to other solutions

When weighing the option of permanent retainers, it's helpful to compare how they stack up against other dental alignment solutions, like removable and clear retainers. These are the retainers you can take out whenever you need to, during meals, when brushing, or for that special occasion when you want nothing in your mouth. You need to remember to wear them as prescribed, clean them regularly, and keep them safe, because no one wants the dreaded experience of accidentally throwing them out.

Here's a quick overview of some removable retainer options: 

1. Clear retainers: Clear retainers are removable and known for their convenience and ease of cleaning. They are a great option to wear after your Motto clear aligners journey if you want a more inconspicuous option. They are also one of the more cost-effective solutions with many options in pricing and protection available at Motto. MottoRetain is a package 4 retainer sets so you can have peace of mind knowing Motto has your teeth covered for the long-term.
  
2. Hawley retainers: Another removable choice, Hawley retainers craft a unique blend of wire and acrylic for durability and effectiveness. Though more noticeable than some alternatives, their classic design allows for adjustability and a personalized fit. Ideal for those who prioritize robustness and are okay with visibility. They also require removal during meals while eating. 
  
Each option has its unique advantages and considerations. While clear and removable retainers offer flexibility and freedom for when to wear and not wear them, a permanent retainer often serves as a reliable, low-maintenance choice to preserve your beautifully aligned teeth. You don't have to worry about misplacing them, forgetting to put them back in, or whether you've worn them enough hours in the day. But they do ask for a commitment to thorough cleaning because good oral hygiene is key when you can't remove your retainer.

When choosing a permanent retainer vs removable, think about your daily routine, your habits, and what you value most when it comes to dental care. Remember, the best choice is the one that you'll stick with and that supports your smile journey and your lifestyle overall. Whichever you choose, you're taking a step towards preserving that hard-earned, beautiful smile of yours. 

Are permanent retainers uncomfortable?

Not at all. Most people find that they quickly get used to their permanent retainer. There might be a short period of adjustment, particularly with speaking and swallowing, but this typically resolves in just a few days. Any initial sensation of discomfort or strangeness soon disappears, leaving you to forget that your retainer is even there, blending effortlessly with your natural smile. 


Smiling man with female Aspen Dental specialist, arch design in background.

How long do permanent retainers last?

Permanent retainers are built to last. With the right care, including diligent oral hygiene and regular dental checkups for any needed adjustments, they can serve you well for many years. It’s a good practice to keep in touch with the dental professional who fitted your retainer, as they can provide personalized advice and adjustments as needed.

How much do permanent retainers cost?

The cost can vary widely depending on several factors, such as your dental provider, geographical location, insurance coverage, and available financing plans. On average, the investment for a permanent retainer could be around $500 for each arch, but the range could be from $100 to over $1,000 for both upper and lower teeth. While this may seem like a significant upfront cost, the long-term benefits and savings from not having to replace removable retainers frequently make it a financially savvy choice. 


Two happy women in sunglasses enjoying ice cream at the beach.

Can I eat normally with a permanent retainer?

Absolutely. Permanent retainers allow you to enjoy your meals and snacks like you always have. It’s important, though, to stay vigilant about cleaning around the retainer to avoid plaque buildup and gum disease. While you can eat normally, it's wise to be cautious with hard or sticky foods that might pose a risk to the retainer's integrity. Otherwise, feel free to savor your favorite dishes without worry, just with added care. 

Can I get a permanent retainer after having removable retainers?

Yes, making the switch from removable to permanent retainers is not only possible but also common. Whether you’re experiencing a regression in teeth alignment, frequent loss or damage to your removable retainers, or simply desire the added convenience and security of a permanent option, transitioning is straightforward. Consult with your orthodontist about making this change. They’ll guide you through this transition, ensuring it's the right move for your smile's health and your lifestyle. 

 A woman winking with short blonde hair, hands on cheeks, smiling.

Keep your smile radiant with a retainer that works for you

It’s important not to overlook the vital role of retainers post-orthodontic treatment. Whether you choose a permanent retainer or removable one like a clear retainer from Motto after your clear aligners treatment, the Motto team at Aspen Dental is here for you every step of the way.

Schedule an appointment with Motto today to explore what kind of retainer aligns with your dental care goals and lifestyle, ensuring your smile remains as stunning as ever for the long-haul. Let's secure that radiant smile of yours for years to come.

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