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February 24th, 2020

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Retainers – Choosing the right one for you!

February 24th, 2020

Once you get your braces off, you will have three options for retainers. A retainer is an appliance that keeps your teeth from shifting back to their original location. Each retainer has pros and cons! Dr. Green and your dental assistant can help you decide which option will be best for you.

Option 1: Clear Essix Retainers (Removable)
Made of a clear plastic.


  • Cannot be seen while wearing.
  • Holds your teeth the best as it forms around each tooth on all surfaces.
  • Lasts anywhere between 9 months to 10 years. This depends on the tendency to “chew” or “grind” your teeth as well as how well the retainer is cared for.
    • If you are a grinder, please notify your assistant! We can use a thicker material. It is bulkier than the regular material, but will last longer.


  • Not as durable as the wire Hawley retainer.
  • It cannot be adjusted. If teeth move because the retainer has not been worn, it will no longer fit and will need to be replaced.
  • Needs to be replaced periodically.

Option 2: Wire Hawley Retainers (Removable)
Made of hard acrylic and wire.


  • Most durable retainer. It lasts a long time and with proper care, it can last up to 40 years!
  • Ideal for night time “grinders” as a special plate can be added to it. Please notify your dental assistant if you would like this added.
  • This is the best option for a back-up retainer.


  • The wires may get bent and need periodic adjustments.
  • The Hawley retainer does not hold the position of your front teeth as well as the clear type of retainer, because it does not form around each individual tooth.

Option 3: Fixed Retainers (Not Removable)
A fixed retainer is more maintenance than removable retainers, but they are a great way to keep the teeth in place as they are worn all the time.


  • They stay in your mouth 24/7, meaning you won’t lose them!


  • This is often the most expensive type of retainer.
  • Wearing a clear essix retainer at least one night per week to check for unwanted tooth movement is highly recommended.
  • They require excellent brushing, flossing, and using mouth rinses. If the teeth are not kept clean, it may affect the health and longevity of your teeth.
  • Breakage can occur due to the fact that the retainers are in while eating. Each person eats differently and applies forces at different locations.
  • Due to breakage, it is recommended you avoid biting into hard and sticky foods such as apples, carrots, hard breads, steak, taffy, etc. and cut all food and chew on the back teeth.
  • This retainer needs replaced most often. It typically lasts between 6 months – 3 years.


Dr. Green recommends wearing your retainer every night for 6 months, then as often as needed to keep your teeth in their current position. Many of our orthodontic patients are able to maintain straight teeth by wearing their retainers once a week at night. Your dental assistant will have further instructions regarding retainer wear as some patients need to wear it more often.

Never wrap your retainer in a paper towel or tissue! Many people do this while eating and it gets thrown away.

Make sure you store your retainer only in its case! Remember that little brothers and sisters are very curious. Pets, especially dogs, also love to eat them.

How often do I need to replace my retainers?

Retainers are like eyeglasses and need to be replaced and adjusted periodically. Some people are able to keep the same glasses for 10 years, some last less than a year. It is the same with retainers!

My retainer feels tight!

This means your teeth are starting to shift. You should increase the amount of time you are wearing your retainers to get them back to the original position.

My retainers won’t fit!

Give us a call at 931-542-9940 as soon as possible! This means your teeth have shifted and there are two options. We can make a new set of retainers that will hold the current position or we can discuss retreatment options to get that perfect smile again.

How should I clean my retainers?

Take your retainer out and hold it in the palm of your hand. Use your toothbrush to carefully brush the retainer with toothpaste. Rinse it with water. Avoid soaking in hot water! You can also drop it in some mouth wash for 5 minutes.

One thing about orthodontic treatment is certain and that is – if you don’t wear your retainer as prescribed, your teeth WILL shift. Make sure you always wear your retainer to keep your teeth straight!

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