Types of Retainers: Which is Best for You?

June 27, 2024


  • Durability: Made from sturdy materials, these retainers are long-lasting.
  • Adjustability: The metal wires can be adjusted by your orthodontist to improve fit or make minor tooth movements.
  • Ease of Repair: If damaged, they can often be repaired rather than replaced.


  • Visibility: The metal wires are visible when worn, which may be a concern for some individuals.
  • Comfort: The acrylic plate can sometimes cause discomfort, especially initially.

Best For: Patients who need a durable, adjustable retainer and don’t mind the visible wires.

2. Clear Plastic Retainers (Essix Retainers)

Description: These retainers are made from a clear plastic material and fit snugly over the teeth, similar to clear aligners.


  • Aesthetics: Virtually invisible when worn, making them a popular choice for appearance-conscious individuals.
  • Comfort: Smooth and less bulky compared to Hawley retainers.
  • Convenience: Easy to remove for eating and cleaning.


  • Durability: Prone to wear and tear, and may need replacement more frequently.
  • No Adjustments: Cannot be adjusted to make minor tooth movements.

Best For: Patients who prefer a nearly invisible retainer and prioritize comfort.

3. Fixed Retainers (Bonded Retainers)

Description: Fixed retainers consist of a thin wire bonded to the back of the teeth, typically the front teeth, and are not removable by the patient.


  • Permanence: Provides constant support, which is beneficial for patients at high risk of relapse.
  • Low Maintenance: No need to remember to put them in or take them out, reducing the risk of loss.


  • Cleaning: Can make oral hygiene more challenging, requiring meticulous flossing and cleaning around the wire.
  • Discomfort: Some patients may initially feel discomfort or irritation on the tongue.

Best For: Patients at high risk of teeth shifting and those who prefer not to manage a removable retainer.

Choosing the Right Retainer

Selecting the right retainer depends on several factors:

  1. Orthodontic Recommendations: Your orthodontist’s advice based on your specific treatment and risk of relapse.
  2. Personal Preferences: Consider aesthetics, comfort, and maintenance preferences.
  3. Lifestyle: If you are likely to forget to wear a removable retainer, a fixed retainer might be a better choice.
  4. Oral Hygiene: If you have trouble maintaining oral hygiene, a removable retainer might make cleaning easier.

Discussing your options with your orthodontist will help determine which type of retainer is best suited for your needs and lifestyle.

Choosing the right retainer is essential for maintaining the alignment of your teeth after orthodontic treatment. Whether you opt for a traditional Hawley retainer, a nearly invisible clear plastic retainer, or a fixed retainer, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each type will help you make an informed decision. Your orthodontist will guide you in selecting the retainer that best meets your needs, ensuring that your smile remains beautifully aligned.