Whether you had extensive orthodontic treatment or just partial treatment, once your treatment with braces is complete, you'll need a retainer. Retainers are designed to keep your teeth from shifting back to their previous positions after your braces are removed.

Types of Retainers: Permanent, Clear Plastic, and Hawley

There are permanent (i.e., fixed lingual retainer), clear plastic, and Hawley retainers. These retainers serve the same purpose; however, as with any product or appliance, each type of retainer has its own pros and cons. Let’s explore these three types of retainers below.

Permanent Retainers

A permanent retainer consists of a wire that is bonded to the back of the teeth. If your teeth were rotated, had a lot of space between them, or were crowded prior to treatment, a permanent retainer may be a good option for you.


  • Since this retainer is bonded to your teeth, you won’t have to think about putting it in or taking it out.
  • You probably won’t damage it
  • You can’t lose it
  • It isn’t visible
  • Most people state that permanent retainers are more comfortable than their removable counterparts


  • Pieces of food may get stuck in the wire; therefore, brushing after meals is very important
  • Floss threaders need to be used. These allow you to floss between the retainer and your teeth.
  • Some movement of the teeth may occur; however, any movement is minimal
  • Brushing and flossing is essential to ensure plaque does not build up

Clear Plastic Retainers (Brand Names: Essix, Vivera, and Zendura)

These retainers resemble Invisalign trays because they’re thin, clear and fit securely over the teeth.


  • Since the retainer is nearly invisible, no one knows you are wearing
  • Because the retainer is form-fitted to each tooth, these retainers are comfortable to wear
  • Clear retainers are removed for cleaning and eating
  • By molding the retainer to fit each tooth perfectly, the clear retainer does the best job at preventing the shifting of teeth


  • These clear retainers are more expensive than traditional Hawley retainers
  • Since these retainers aren’t as durable as their traditional counterpart, they’re not recommended for people who play contact sports or grind their teeth
  • Cleaning a clear plastic retainer using a product like toothpaste can damage the material
  • Due to normal wear and tear, you may need a new retainer over time

Hawley Retainer

When you think about a retainer, chances are you picture the Hawley retainer. These retainers are made of acrylic that is molded to fit the inside of the roof or floor of the mouth. There are metal wires that wrap around your teeth to hold the retainer in place. These retainers are removable.


  • When cared for properly, Hawley retainers can last for a long time
  • These retainers are durable, stain-resistant, somewhat adjustable and easy to care for
  • Can be taken out before eating, brushing, and flossing
  • Hawley retainers are available in a variety of colors
  • You can clean your retainer using a toothbrush and toothpaste or denture cleaner


  • People who grind their teeth will quickly wear down these retainers
  • Talking and swallowing while wearing these retainers can be challenging.
  • Losing your retainer can be costly
  • The metal wire of this retainer is visible
  • You may produce more saliva than usual while wearing this retainer
  • Bacteria can accumulate if you don’t clean your retainer properly

Your orthodontist will discuss your retainer options and which type is best for your situation. After your braces are removed, it’s critical to wear your retainer as recommended by your orthodontist. If you don’t, your teeth will likely shift over time.

Contact OrthoCare Orthodontics today to learn more about how we can help you attain the beautiful smile you have always wanted. We have two offices located in Charlotte, North Carolina. We also have offices located in Spartanburg and Rock Hill, South Carolina. Contact one of our offices today to schedule your free consultation.

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