Once patients have completed an orthodontic treatment plan and achieved their desired results, it can be easy to think that the work is done. However, there is still one more important step to ensure the longevity of their new smiles- choosing and wearing a retainer. There are three main types of retainers available: Hawley retainers, permanent retainers, and clear plastic retainers. This article will focus primarily on Hawley retainers, Essix and Vivera retainers, the latter two being different types of clear plastic retainers.
What is a retainer, and how does it work?
A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that is meant to preserve the position of a patient’s teeth following orthodontic treatment with braces or aligners. To ensure that their retainers can do their job, patients should wear them for the instructed amount of time, as retainers work by physically keeping the teeth from moving.
Types of Retainers: Hawley, Essix, Vivera, & Permanent Retainers
As briefly discussed above, the three main categories that retainers fall into are Hawley retainers, clear plastic retainers (such as Essix or Vivera), and permanent retainers. Each of these types of retainers has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages and appropriate for different situations.
Essix retainers fall into the category of clear plastic retainers and look quite similar to clear teeth aligners. They are made of thinner plastic than Vivera retainers and are removable.
- Easily removable, making Essix retainers with tooth plaque or staining easy to clean
- Not as likely to impact speech compared to other types of retainers
- Almost completely invisible
- Cannot be adjusted
- Potential for warped plastic, leading to a need for retainer replacement
- Can become stained over time
Like Essix retainers, Vivera retainers are a specific type of clear plastic retainers. However, the plastic they are made out of is thicker than that of Essix retainers, making it more likely that they could have an adverse impact on speech while being worn.
- Almost invisible
- Removable, making dental hygiene easier
- Thicker plastic might impact speech while the retainer is being worn
- The clear plastic might stain over time, making it essential to learn how to clean retainers
A Hawley retainer is made out of a combination of metal wire and either plastic or acrylic. Like Essix and Vivera retainers, they are removable. The metal wire runs along your teeth to keep them in place, while the acrylic or plastic section of the retainer sits either on the roof of your mouth or on the inside of your lower teeth.
- Removable, making dental hygiene easier
- Less likely to stain than an Essix or Vivera retainer
- More durable than clear plastic retainers, reducing the risk of a craked retainer
- More likely to impact speech than other types of retainers
- More visible than other types of retainers
A permanent retainer typically consists of a metal wire that is bonded to the inside of your teeth, where it is not visible. An orthodontist may choose to utilize a permanent retainer if he or she believes that there is a high risk of the teeth shifting back to their original positions or if the patient is young or otherwise less likely to comply with wearing a removable retainer.
- Cheap to replace if broken
- Patient compliance is essentially guaranteed since this type of retainer is not removable
- Dental hygiene might be more difficult to maintain since the retainer is permanently fixed to the teeth
- Since the wire used in permanent retainers is then and flexible, there is the possibility that the teeth could shift slightly
How do retainers compare?
Different types of retainers are appropriate for different situations. Individual orthodontists may be partial to choosing one type of retainer over another simply due to personal preference or due to their experience.
Hawley vs Essix Retainers
Both Hawley and Essix retainers are popular options for patients following orthodontic treatment. Below are some of the key similarities and differences between these two types of retainers:
Fixed Retainers vs Essix or Vivera Retainers
Fixed retainers are a permanent or semi-permanent option for retainers, while both Essix and Vivera retainers are removable. The comparison between a Hawley vs Essix retainer and a Hawley vs Vivera retainer is essentially the same. If you want to know more about the details for any of these retainers, doing a quick search for something like “Vivera retainers review” could be helpful.
Vivera vs Essix Retainers
Vivera and Essix retainers are two common forms of removable plastic retainers.
Cost of Retainers: Breakdown Price
Price will clearly be a factor when deciding which type of retainer would be the best fit for an individual patient.
Retainers Comparison Table
For a quick summary of the different types of retainers, check out the information in the table below!
|Type of Retainer
|Cost (Full Set)
|Metal wire and plastic or acrylic
|Removable, Easier dental hygiene
|Visible, Potential for bacteria to grow on surface
|Removable, Easier dental hygiene, Nearly invisible
|Can stain easily, Might need to be replaced more often, potential for bacteria to grow on surface
|$400-$1,200 *set of four
|Removable, Easier dental hygiene, Nearly invisible, Slightly more durable than Essix
|Can stain easily, Potential for bacteria to grow on surface
|Compliance is simple
Each type of retainer offers a unique set of pros and cons for the patient. With so many factors playing a role, it would be best for patients to lean on their orthodontist’s input regarding which retainer would be best suited for their individual situation following orthodontic treatment. Regardless, ensuring that you wear a retainer following orthodontic treatment can help prevent relapse and the need for additional interventions like active retainers or a second round of braces. Braces and active retainers cost are not cheap, so be sure to wear your retainer as directed!
And if you are here but don’t have even started your alignment treatment, here are some of the best teeth aligners brands that offer great plans and prices if you lost your retainers:
If you want to learn more about this brands or even learn about other alternatives, we recommend checking our guide to the top six brands of teeth aligners.