Maintain Your Smile: Key Insights on Retainers After Braces Types

Maintain Your Smile: Key Insights on Retainers After Braces Types

Exploring the different types of retainers after braces can be a critical step in your orthodontic journey. Once the active phase of moving and straightening your teeth is complete, retainers play a pivotal role in maintaining those results. Understanding the various options available can help you make an informed decision about which type is right for you.

Why Retainers Are Necessary

Retainers, as defined by the blog, What’s The Difference Between Braces And Retainers?, are plastic or metal devices that can either be fixed or removable. After undergoing orthodontic treatment, such as braces or clear aligners, teeth have a tendency to shift back to their original positions—a process known as relapse. Retainers are designed to prevent this, ensuring that your teeth remain aligned and your smile stays beautiful. The type of retainer you choose can depend on your lifestyle, the specifics of your dental treatment, and personal preference.

Types of Retainers

There are primarily three types of retainers: Hawley retainers, clear plastic retainers, and fixed retainers. Each type has its benefits and considerations.

Hawley Retainers

Hawley retainers are one of the oldest and most traditional types of retainers. They consist of a metal wire that surrounds the teeth and holds them in place, attached to an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of your mouth. One of the biggest advantages of Hawley retainers is their durability and adjustability. Orthodontists can tweak the metal wires to correct minor tooth movements that may occur over time.

However, their visibility and the feel of acrylic in the mouth might be a downside for some people, especially those who are very conscious about their appearance or comfort.

Appearance, after all, was a reflection of what a person thought of themselves and therefore, by extension, of others.” — Terry Goodkind, was an American Writer

Clear Plastic Retainers

Clear plastic retainers, like those made from materials such as Invisalign’s Vivera, have become increasingly popular due to their aesthetic appeal. They are virtually invisible, fitting snugly over your entire dental arch and appearing similar to clear aligners. These retainers are particularly favoured by adults and teens who seek a more discreet post-orthodontic treatment.

While clear plastic retainers are less noticeable, they require careful maintenance. They need to be cleaned regularly to avoid bacterial build-up and can become discoloured over time. Additionally, they are not as durable as Hawley retainers and may need to be replaced periodically.

Fixed Retainers

Fixed retainers consist of a thin wire bonded directly to the inside surface of the lower or upper front teeth. Since they are permanently attached, these retainers provide a continuous hold, preventing any unwanted movement. They are completely invisible from the outside and don’t require any effort in terms of daily wear and removal.

The main challenge with fixed retainers is cleaning; maintaining excellent oral hygiene is crucial as food particles and plaque can easily accumulate around them. They are typically recommended for patients who have had significant alignment issues prior to braces and need prolonged stabilisation.

No matter what type of retainer you choose to have, according to a blog by Orthodontics Australia, it is important to wear the retainer exactly as prescribed by your orthodontist.

Choosing the Right Retainer

Selecting the right type of retainer is a decision that should be made with the guidance of an orthodontic specialist. Factors to consider include:


If you are involved in sports or active pursuits, a durable and less intrusive option like a fixed retainer might be preferable.


For those who may struggle with the responsibility of removing and maintaining a retainer properly, fixed retainers eliminate the need for daily management.

Aesthetic concerns

If appearance is a significant concern, clear plastic retainers offer a discreet solution.

Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” – Keri Russell

The importance of retainers in maintaining the success of orthodontic treatment cannot be overstated. Each type of retainer has its own set of advantages and potential drawbacks, and the choice largely depends on personal circumstances and preferences. Consulting with an orthodontist, who can provide personalised advice based on your specific needs and treatment history, is the best way to ensure that your investment in a healthy, straight smile is protected for years to come.

Remember, the goal of any retainer is to keep your smile looking its best after the hard work of braces. Make sure to follow your orthodontist’s recommendations and choose a retainer that fits your life.

Ensure your smile remains perfect for life! Plan your orthodontic visit with Ellenbrook Orthodontics and let our specialists guide you to the ideal retainer.


What are the main types of retainers used after braces?

The main types of retainers after braces include Hawley retainers, clear plastic retainers, and fixed retainers. Each type serves the same purpose—to maintain the alignment of your teeth post-treatment—but they differ in material, visibility, and how they are worn.

How long do I need to wear my retainer after braces?

The duration for which you need to wear your retainer varies depending on individual orthodontic needs. Initially, you might need to wear it full-time for several months, then you may transition to wearing it only at night. Your orthodontist will provide a tailored schedule based on your specific case.

Can I remove my fixed retainer?

Fixed retainers are permanently attached and are not meant to be removed by the patient. They are usually worn for several years and sometimes indefinitely. Removal should only be done by an orthodontist if necessary.

How do I clean my Hawley or clear plastic retainer?

Hawley and clear plastic retainers should be cleaned regularly using a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste or a mild soap. Avoid hot water as it can warp the material. Special retainer cleaning solutions are also available.

Are there any foods I should avoid with a removable retainer?

When wearing a removable retainer, it’s best to avoid hard, sticky, and chewy foods that can damage or get stuck in the retainer. Always remove your retainer when eating to maintain its condition and prevent distortion.

Will wearing a retainer affect my speech?

You may notice slight changes in your speech when you first start wearing a retainer, particularly with Hawley and clear plastic types. This adjustment is temporary, and most people adapt quickly within a few days.

How often should my retainer be replaced?

The lifespan of a retainer depends on the type and how well it is cared for. Hawley retainers can last many years with proper maintenance, while clear plastic retainers may need to be replaced every 1-2 years. Regular check-ups with your orthodontist will help determine when a replacement is necessary.

What should I do if my retainer no longer fits?

If your retainer feels uncomfortable or doesn’t fit properly, contact your orthodontist. A poor-fitting retainer may not effectively hold your teeth in place, leading to shifts in alignment. Your orthodontist can adjust or replace your retainer as needed.

Ready to discover the best retainer option for your smile? Book a free consult now with our specialists at Ellenbrook Orthodontics today and ensure your smile stays perfect!

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