Proper use of retainers is the final piece for a straight smile that would last a lifetime. When wearing braces, the appliances help move and shift your teeth into correct positions that ensure a straight smile. After your braces come off, your teeth have completed their move.

However, just because your braces have come off, does not mean you are free to forget everything about your teeth. Teeth are just like the bones in your body. They will grow, change and adjust. This means that teeth can also change positions.

In order to stabilize your teeth and to ensure that they don’t move, you will need to wear a retainer.

Types of Retainers

There are generally 3 types of retainers.

Traditional Retainer (Hawley): Traditional retainers are the most common retainers that consumers are familiar with. Hawley retainers can come in a plastic or acrylic mold that can be customized in a variety of translucent colors. The mold will have some wiring that wrap around. These retainers are light and are easily placed into your mouth. Post orthodontic patients need to wear retainers on a nightly basis to ensure stability of their teeth and to prevent any tooth from deviating from its position. Traditional retainers are known to last anywhere from 1 to 20 years!

Clear Plastic Retainer: These resemble the clear aligners that Invisalign has made popular. They are made of plastic of polyurethane material. Clear plastic retainers fit over your teeth precisely similar to the clear aligners used during Invisalign treatment. As opposed to the translucent colors and wiring, these clear plastic retainers are transparent and almost invisible to others. Where clear retainers have aesthetic advantages, the technology for them has not caught up with traditional retainers when it comes to durability. They can last on average from 6 month to a little over a year.

Fixed Retainers (Lingual): Fixed retainers have one main difference, they are not removable like traditional or clear plastic retainers. They are typically applied on the lower front teeth. Just like Lingual Braces, fixed retainers are installed behind your teeth so they are pretty inconspicuous to those around you. Because they cannot be removed, there is no danger of losing these retainers. Fixed retainers are needed when there is a high chance of teeth moving out of their straightened positions.

Which Retainer Should I Choose?

When it comes to deciding which type of retainer you should use, there are couple of different factors that people should consider:

  • Cost
  • Orthodontic Need
  • Dental Insurance Coverage
  • Aesthetic and Comfort

At the end of the day, many people can be so excited about removing their braces that they forget about their retainers. However, it is worth having a conversation with Dr. Dan and the orthodontic staff to determine what type of retainer may be best for you or your child.

Here are some considerations when it comes to deciding between a removable or fixed retainer.


  • Retainers can be easily removed
  • Removable retainers can easily be lost
    Retainers do require oral care to ensure they stay clean


  • There is no risk of losing fixed retainers
  • Oral hygiene can be more difficult with the wire
  • Occasional visits may be needed to keep track of the fixed retainer

Retainer Instructions

For the purpose of these instructions, we will assume that most will elect to go with the traditional or clear braces route. The use of retainers is pretty simple, the key to success is to follow 3 habits every day.


  • Wear your retainer every night (you do not need to wear retainers all day)
  • Clean your retainer after removal
  • Ensure retainer is stowed away in its case

When it comes to storing your retainer, we want to touch on #3. We’ve all heard of people dumpster diving for lost retainers. It’s important to make sure that you keep your retainer in a case and that you remember where you put it.

Many people lose or damage their retainer by putting it in a napkin or leaving it somewhere they should not have.

Cleaning your Retainer

When taking off your retainer, you will want to clean the retainer. Just like our teeth and gums, bacteria and plaque can form and create tartar. Wearing a dirty retainer can exacerbate the spread of tooth decay.

When removing your retainer, use your toothbrush and lightly brush and rinse the retainer. For added cleaning help, you can use denture cleaners or special retainer cleaners to ensure optimal cleanliness. Occasionally, when the retainer has gotten to a point where you can not brush away crust and tartar from a retainer, you can take it to your dentist or orthodontist to get it cleaned. Dr. Dan and his peers have special equipment as dental professionals to help clean this. Be careful with clear retainers, these can be scratched by toothbrushes. When cleaning clear

If you are wearing a fixed retainer, follow your usual brushing and flossing with extra care to work around the wire.

Losing Your Retainer

It can happen to the best of us. Sometimes, we can misplace our retainer. It happens and it isn’t the end of the world. If you have lost your retainer, contact Dr. Dan and our team and they can schedule an appointment to get you a new one!

When getting a new retainer, it’s important to note that many insurances only cover one set of retainers, so it will be worth it to check with Showtime and your dental insurance provider so you know what to expect.

If you are considering visiting an orthodontist or getting braces, feel free to contact us!