There are several different types of retainers available to the consumer, and navigating which type or model can be overwhelming. Here, we are going to break down the different types of retainers, their costs, how long they need to be worn, and the general pros and cons associated with each style.
|Types of Retainers||Overview||Average Cost Without Insurance||Average Cost With Insurance||Average Treatment Duration|
|Removable Retainers||Two types:
Hawley retainer—made of a hard acrylic and molded to fit the patient’s mouth. Also has visible metal wires to hold teeth in position.
The clear plastic retainer (Essix retainer)—molded clear plastic, removable trays designed to hold teeth still. Akin to Invisalign braces.
Hawley retainer—$150–340 per piece (up to $600 for a set).
Clear plastic retainer— $100–300 for one (up to $500 for a set).
|Dependent on insurance providers and each individual’s benefits.
Typically, retainers fall under your orthodontic benefits.
Hawley retainers can range between a year and 20 years.
Clear Plastic retainers typically cycle anywhere from 6 and 12 months or longer.
|Permanent Retainers||Fixed lingual retainer—permanently affixed metal wire to the back of your teeth.||$250–$500 per arch.||Dependent on insurance coverage.||Indefinitely.|
|Aligners||Clear removable trays designed to move teeth in small increments from their original position every few weeks with the goal of changing the dental arch.||Typically have monthly plans for consumers depending on desired effects of treatment.||Dependent on insurance benefits, and can be covered by FSA or HSA accounts.||Anywhere from 3 to 6 months.|
There are several types of retainers, including:
It is common to see these types of retainers available for at-home/online purchases. In those instances, it is highly recommended that you pick a company and product that has a licensed dental or orthodontic specialist.
They can review any at-home impressions or bite molds you send in and allow you to track your progress. An example of an at-home kit that uses FDA-cleared technology, relies on a network of licensed dental experts, and can be covered by insurance benefits is Byte Aligners. Check out our Byte Aligners review for more information.
There are two types of removable retainers.
The first is the traditional Hawley Retainer. This mouthpiece consists of a plastic piece formed to fit the roof or floor of the mouth that is attached to a wire that fits over your front teeth. Hawley retainers require dental visits, as the wires need to be adjusted over time.
The second is Clear Plastic Retainers. This type of retainer—also known as a vacuum-formed retainer or Essix retainer—has several different models but is typically a molded clear thin plastic retainer. It’s usually a horseshoe-shaped piece of material that is molded to fit over your teeth.
Also known as fixed retainers, bonded retainers, or fixed lingual wire retainers, a permanent retainer is made of metal wire—usually copper, nickel, or titanium—that is affixed to the back of the patient’s teeth. This process is part of an extensive orthodontic treatment meant to hold teeth in place.
Ultimately, it depends on what best fits you, your lifestyle, and your orthodontic goals. Aligners and the various retainer types are excellent alternatives to braces, and often less costly.
Aligners and Essix retainers allow for a consumer to avoid expensive dental office visits—however, as mentioned, it is important to find options that are professional and allow for use under the supervision of a dental professional.
When determining which retainer or aligner will be the best fit, pay attention to the various costs, duration commitments, and what the normal wear requirements will be to achieve your desired results.
For example, AlignerCo provides at-home options that are designed by dental professionals, require fewer daily hours of wear, fewer days of wear for each set, and reduced prices than many competitors. Check out our AlignerCo review for more details.
Other factors that can play a role in determining what style of retainer or aligner works best for you would be the severity of your misalignment or overbite/underbite. Most retainers can help straighten your teeth, but cannot fully fix the issue if it’s severe. Also, anything that is removable runs the risk of being misplaced or damaged—so if you’re a forgetful adult or have an absent-minded child, it might be best to consider permanent retainers or braces.
Regardless of your orthodontic concerns, the use of retainers and aligners in conjunction with braces or after having your braces removed can be quite complimentary. Ensuring the product you use is monitored by dental experts is crucial, as you want to make sure your retainer works with you as your dental profile adjusts.
Clear retainers have become the popular pick thanks to their nearly invisible nature. However, a lot can be accomplished with other retainers and aligners. Having a permanent retainer or wire retainer may be necessary to fix major orthodontic concerns.
Metal retainers like Hawley, though removable, are still obviously visible and require care and maintenance. A clear retainer can be practically invisible, does not require special cleaning tools to maintain, and is easily removable to properly brush and floss your teeth to prevent plaque buildup.
Before picking your new retainer, make sure you are working with a dental or orthodontic expert—in-person or virtually—and that you know the commitments you are making.
Some questions you can ask include:
Here are the most frequently asked questions about retainers and aligners.
After braces, it is common to still need a retainer or aligner. Typically, most users find that the best option is a retainer or retainers that allow them to enjoy food in a normal manner, do not disrupt their schedule with multiple dental visits, and allow them to smile without wires across their teeth.
The three main types of retainers are permanent retainers that are affixed or bonded to the backside of your teeth, removable retainers—traditional Hawley or clear plastic—and transparent plastic aligners.
There is no one-size-fits-all “best” retainer out there. There are plenty of options that fit each individual’s needs and requirements. The end goal is a smile that you are proud to share.
It is easy to get overwhelmed and confused by the different orthodontic options out there—especially when you have just been told you need extra help to fix your smile. Pay attention to the benefits different types of retainers provide, their role in overall dental and orthodontic care, and know that your smile will always be uniquely yours.