Orthodontic retainers are custom-made devices, usually made of wires or clear plastic, that hold teeth in position after realigning teeth. They are most often used before or after dental braces to keep teeth in position while assisting the adjustment of the surrounding gums to changes in the bone. Most patients are required to wear their retainer(s) every night at first, with many also being directed to wear them during the day.

Types of Retainers

Hawley retainers

The most common type of retainer, Hawley retainers, have a design that consists of wires and clasps embedded in a relatively thick plastic body that covers over the roof of your mouth or lies along the tongue side of your lower teeth. The clasps grasp selected teeth, so the retainer is anchored securely. The retaining “bow” wire arches across the front side of your teeth and holds and maintains their alignment.

Clear Retainers

These retainers are clear plastic vacuum-formed appliances that are made by taking a cast of your teeth. Although they are slightly less noticeable, they don’t have the lifespan of Hawley retainers.

Fixed Retainers

Fixed retainers are also referred to as “bonded” or “permanent” retainers. And, as each of these names suggest, these types of appliances are attached (bonded) directly to the backsides of the front teeth (3 teeth left of center and 3 right of center). Fixed retainers do not touch or hold the back teeth because it’s not possible to have a wire go around the entire mouth. Thus, the back teeth may move over time. Also, since they are attached to your teeth, they cannot be removed other than a dental professional.

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