The day your braces come off is an exciting day, but that’s not the end of your orthodontic journey. To ensure your smile stays put you’ll need to wear a retainer.

Why do I need a retainer?

A retainer serves a very important purpose. Its job is to do exactly what its name implies – retain your smile. Once your braces are removed or you’ve finished your final set of aligners, the soft tissue and bone that surround your teeth will need time to stabilize. The retainer holds the teeth in their new locations while everything else in the mouth adjusts. If you don’t wear a retainer while this is happening, your periodontal ligaments will try to pull your teeth back to their old locations.

Are there different types of retainers?

Yes, there are different types of retainers: Fixed vs. Removable

  • Fixed retainers are bonded directly to the back of the teeth. These are the least commonly used and are typically reserved for patients who have a higher indication for relapse. Patients who may be ideal candidates for permanent fixed retainers are usually patients who had teeth that were very rotated, overly crowded, or had excessive spacing. They can be difficult to clean and can detach from teeth, so extra care is needed.
  • Removable retainers can be taken in and out. We provide two types of removable retainers called Essix and Hawley retainers.
    • Essix retainers look like Invisalign aligners. These are the most common and popular retainers offered due to comfort and esthetics. They are clear and custom-made to fit over your newly positioned teeth.
    • Hawley retainers consist of an acrylic piece across the palate that has a wire across the front teeth.


How much do retainers cost?

Your retainer is an important part of your orthodontic treatment, so the cost is already included in your plan. Unless your retainer is damaged or lost, there is no additional fee for your retainer. Be sure to ask us about our retainer replacement program that covers the cost of replacement retainers if yours is lost or damaged.

How long will I need to wear my retainer?

Every patient is individual so retainer wear may be customized to meet your needs. On average, you should plan to wear your retainer full time for approximately 4 months, followed by nighttime wear.  As you age, your teeth will naturally shift so if you want to keep your orthodontic results, you may opt to wear your retainer for life.

How do I care for my retainer?

Taking care of your new smile is important, and part of that will be caring for your retainer. If you wear a fixed retainer you’ll need to be diligent about brushing and flossing properly to prevent plaque build-up on your retainer. You’ll also need to be careful to avoid certain foods so you don’t damage the retainer.


If you wear a Hawley retainer or clear retainer, you’ll need to properly clean your retainer in addition to taking care of your smile. Here are some tips to keep your retainer clean and safe:

  • Gently clean your retainer with a soft-bristled toothbrush and mild dish soap. We recommend avoiding using toothpaste as most toothpastes can be too abrasive and could scratch or damage the surface of the retainer.
  • Soak your retainer in a retainer cleaner or denture cleaner to help remove any build-up. Pay close attention to the time, though, as soaking it for too long can damage it.
  • Keep your retainer away from high heat – only use lukewarm water to clean your retainer as high temperatures can warp the plastic.
  • Carry a retainer case with you so that whenever your retainer is out of your mouth it has a safe place to be. More than one patient has accidentally thrown their retainer out. And keep your retainer out of reach of pets – your dog might just mistake it for his next chew toy!
  • Don’t forget to clean your case. Use warm, soapy water and scrub the inside surfaces of the case to ensure no bacteria can transfer to your retainer.
  • Don’t forget to wear your retainer! Failing to wear your retainer as directed can alter the fit as your teeth shift. If this happens, call Dr. Feinstein so she can make any necessary adjustments.
  • Replace your retainer as needed. With proper care, your retainer can last several years but even the most well-cared-for retainer will eventually wear out. If you are wondering if it’s time to replace yours, call our office and we’ll be happy to help.
  • Be careful when you are putting in and taking out your retainer. It’s made to fit snugly over your teeth, so be gentle when removing it and putting it back in. When taking it out, it can be helpful to loosen it in a few spots before trying to pull it out.
  • Don’t forget to brush your teeth before putting the retainer back in. If you’ve taken your retainer out to eat, brush your teeth before putting it back in so you aren’t trapping food debris between your teeth and the retainer.

If you have any questions about how to properly wear or care for your retainer, don’t hesitate to call our office.