A retainer is a custom-made device that holds the teeth firmly in place. Often prescribed after the completion of an orthodontic treatment, where the bite has been reshaped or corrected, they maintain the new positions of the bite and teeth. They can be made of either plastic or metal.


The type of retainer, fixed or removable, and the duration it needs to be worn is decided upon by the dentist.


A retainer can be a fixed wire bonded to the backs of the lower and upper front teeth or it can be a removable plastic device with or without a single wire in the front. Some dentists believe that wisdom teeth can push the front teeth out of alignment as they erupt (around the ages of 16-25 years), causing an alignment issue.


Retainers are not only used for keeping the teeth in place after Orthodontics Treatment is done, sometimes children who have a tongue thrust (a condition where the tongue slides through the teeth when they talk), can benefit from retainers, that are specially designed to train the tongue not to move forward when they speak.

There Are Two General Kinds of Retainers

There Are Two General Kinds of Retainers


They can be taken out and put back daily by your child. The retainers can come in either wire (made of wire and plastic), or clear (plastic-like trays made of a transparent plastic).


A bonded retainer is a thin, custom-fit wire that is bonded on the inside of the upper and/or lower teeth. It is usually recommended as a follow-up to orthodontic treatment, as it helps keep the teeth in their place.

Bonded Retainer

It’s attached to your teeth after your braces are removed to keep them in place for indefinite time after completing the treatment. 


A bonded retainer is recommended if you need to wear your retainer at all times as a follow-up to orthodontic treatment.

Hawley Retainer

Wire retainers – can be removed at mealtimes and for cleaning. It is made of a combination of an acrylic or hard plastic plate that is connected by thin metal wires. 


The wire of this custom-made retainer rests against the front of the top teeth, while the acrylic plate sits comfortably on the roof of the mouth. To ensure your smile remains healthy for life, you will have to wear your Hawley retainer nightly for the rest of your life.


Hawley retainers were the first form of retention device. However, new designs have emerged in recent decades such as Essix and Vivera removable clear plastic retainers.

Clear Plastic Retainer

Also called molded retainers, this type of removable retainers is made of clear plastic. They have become popular in recent years since they are practically invisible and are made of high-quality transparent plastic. Just like the Hawley retainers, clear plastic retainers can be taken out while eating and drinking and for cleaning.


All removable retainers should be removed while eating and drinking and for cleaning. The easiest way to keep them clean is to soak them in warm water when they’re not being worn.

To keep them intact, rinse or brush them with warm water using a very soft toothbrush (to keep the clear plastic from scratching). Never use toothpaste to brush your retainers as it will make them dull and scratch away the shine. Corners and edges of the retainers should be cleaned with a cotton swab.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the primary purpose of teeth retainers?

Teeth retainers are custom-made devices designed to hold teeth in their corrected positions after orthodontic treatment. They prevent teeth from shifting back to their original positions, ensuring long-lasting results from orthodontic procedures.

How often should I wear my retainers?

Initially, it’s recommended to wear retainers full-time, except during meals and oral hygiene routines. After a certain period, your orthodontist might advise you to wear them only at night. It’s essential to follow your orthodontist’s instructions to maintain the alignment of your teeth.

How do I clean and care for my retainers?

Retainers should be cleaned daily to remove bacteria and plaque. Use a soft toothbrush and lukewarm water. Avoid using hot water as it can warp the retainer. Additionally, soaking retainers in a denture or retainer cleaning solution can help keep them fresh.

Can I eat while wearing my retainers?

It’s generally advised not to eat while wearing removable retainers to prevent damage. Always remove them during meals and store them in their protective case.

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