As you approach the end of your Invisalign or braces journey, a critical decision awaits you - choosing the right retainer! Did you know that there are three uniquely different types of retainers available in the market right now, all with different pros and cons? Let’s go through each of them in turn so that you can find the best retainer for your oral health and wellbeing.
Choosing the right retainer after Invisalign treatment
After undergoing the transformative journey of Invisalign treatment, one of the crucial decisions patients face is selecting the most suitable retainer to maintain their newly straightened teeth. Invisalign clear aligners have revolutionized orthodontic treatment by offering a virtually invisible and convenient alternative to traditional braces. Nonetheless, post-treatment retention is very important and hence choosing the right retainer is paramount in preserving the results achieved through Invisalign.
What are the different types of retainers?
Among the array of retainer options available, clear retainers and Vivera retainers stand out as popular choices for Invisalign patients. Clear retainers, typically made from leading clear retainer materials, offer a discreet and comfortable solution for maintaining the alignment of upper and lower teeth. On the other hand, Vivera retainers, produced by Align Technology, the same company behind Invisalign aligners, provide a durable and precise fit, ensuring long-term stability for the patient's smile.
1) Hawley retainers
Hawley retainers1 are usually traditional braces made with either plastic or acrylic with bendable metal wires and come in a variety of different colours. The wire usually goes in front of your teeth while the acrylic is made to fit your front teeth snugly in your mouth. These braces are usually fitted tightly to your teeth and can be very durable, lasting up to 10 years for some patients!
- Adjustable so your dentist can tweak it to continue realignment of your teeth
- Helps to correct your bite and allow upper and lower teeth to touch naturally
- Can last for years with the proper maintenance
- Repairable if it’s broken by accident
- More durable than clear retainers
- Easily removable
- Causes a very distinct lisp when speaking
- Far more noticeable in public due to the metal wire at the front
- Considerably more uncomfortable to wear and may irritate your inner lips and cheeks initially
- If not cleaned properly, bacteria may build up on it
2) Clear retainers
These retainers have become much more popular in recent years, especially with the rising popularity of clear aligner brands such as Invisalign and Zenyum. Common brands for clear retainers2 include Essix, Zendura and Vivera. They are commonly made using plastic or polyurethane and are designed specifically for your mouth through the use of 3D imaging technology.
- Fitted to your teeth and are comfortable to wear
- Thinner than traditional Hawley retainers
- Can have multiple copies of them made
- Almost invisible to the naked eye when worn
- Easily removable when its mealtime
- Not adjustable and you may require new ones if your teeth shift
- Need to be replaced on a yearly basis
- Easy to misplace due to the size and lack of colour
- Cannot be repaired if broken or cracked
- Your teeth do not touch naturally with this sort of retainer, so your natural bite could be affected
- Might become discoloured if the patient smokes or drinks coffee
- Can lose its shape if exposed to heat
3) Permanent retainers
These retainers are often braces made with a metal wire and is attached to your teeth with adhesive. They are sometimes known as bonded or fixed retainers3. In orthodontic and dental treatments general, these wires are made with a braided texture and are not easily removed. Orthodontists will sometimes elect to prescribe permanent retainers to individuals who have a tough time being compliant with the use of removable retainers. They are more commonly used on the lower teeth as it is easier to safely attach them to the lower shelf of teeth rather than the upper teeth.
- They do not need to be removed before meals
- Will not be seen as they are bonded behind your teeth
- Does not cause a lisp
- Will not be misplaced
- Will not be damaged easily
- Compliance with instructions is no longer an issue
- Harder to maintain oral hygiene as it cannot be removed
- Makes flossing very difficult
- Metal wire can sometimes irritate the inside of the mouth or tongue
- Many patients do not like the fact that they cannot remove it completely
Permanent retainers should be cleaned daily and special techniques may be needed to remove trapped food and plaque from underneath the wire. If plaque build-up is too severe for other retainers, it might need to be removed and cleaned at the orthodontist occasionally during the treatment plan. Otherwise, they are generally left in your mouth indefinitely.
So, which retainer is best for me?
Every individual has a different oral anatomy and it is best to consult with your dentist as to which retainer is the best one for you. Each style of retainer comes with its unique strengths and weaknesses, so it’s advisable to take your habits and lifestyle when deciding on which retainer you need to wear if you choose to maintain a beautiful smile. The type of retainer you pick will be a constant in your life over many years, so it’s important to find the one that you find most comfortable to use properly on a long-term basis.
Consulting with an Invisalign Provider for retainer care
Ultimately, the best retainer choice for an individual patient in 2024 depends on a combination of factors, including the patient's unique teeth conditions, treatment duration, and personal preferences. Consulting with an Invisalign-accredited dentist or trained doctor is crucial for receiving personalized recommendations tailored to the patient's specific needs and goals. By collaborating with a knowledgeable dental professional, patients can make informed decisions regarding their post-treatment retainer options, ensuring a confident and lasting smile for years to come.
Importance of good oral hygiene and retainer compliance
Regardless of the retainer chosen, maintaining good oral hygiene and diligent retainer wear are critical factors in preventing relapse and ensuring the longevity of treatment outcomes. Patients must brush and floss regularly to prevent plaque buildup and maintain the health of their teeth and gums. Additionally, consistent wear of the prescribed retainer, whether removable or permanent, is essential for preventing teeth movement and preserving the desired tooth positions achieved through Invisalign.
- Outhaisavanh S, Liu Y, Song J. The origin and evolution of the Hawley retainer for the effectiveness to maintain tooth position after fixed orthodontic treatment compare to vacuum-formed retainer: A systematic review of RCTs. Int Orthod. 2020 Jun;18(2):225-236. doi: 10.1016/j.ortho.2020.02.008. Epub 2020 Mar 19. PMID: 32201168.
- Chaimongkol P, Suntornlohanakul S. Clear retainer. APOS Trends Orthod 2017;7:54-60.
- Zafer Sari, Tancan Uysal, Faruk Ayhan Başçiftçi, Ozgur Inan; Occlusal Contact Changes with Removable and Bonded Retainers in a 1-Year Retention Period. Angle Orthod 1 September 2009; 79 (5): 867–872. doi: https://doi.org/10.2319/101608-536.1