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Feb 10

About Retainers

What are they?

Retainers are appliances that are designed to keep the teeth in their position. They are used at the end of the Orthodontic treatment. They are not usually used to move teeth.

Types of retainers

There are two main types of Orthodontic retainers i.e. removable, and fixed.

Removable retainers

Removable retainers can be inserted and removed by the patient. The most common types include an Essix retainer, and a Hawley retainer.

Hawley Retainer

This traditional retainer includes a silver wire that sits across the front teeth, metal clasps (clips) on the back molars, and a plastic frame.


  • Easy to insert and remove and is rigid and sturdy.
  • Can sometimes be repaired if broken.
  • It is adjustable and can sometimes realign a tooth that has moved out of position
  • Allow for the teeth to ‘settle’ into the bite after treatment because they don’t’ cover the biting surface.


  • Can cause some lisping
  • Cover some of the roof of the mouth and can be uncomfortable initially
  • Wire can break if bend regularly.

Essix Retainer

It is made from a clear plastic material that is vacuumed from a cast of the teeth.


  • Clear and almost invisible.
  • Comfortable
  • Does not cover the roof of the mouth.
  • Can be used for tooth whitening.


  • Can wear and tear, and crack.
  • Can prevent the bite from ‘settling’.

Fixed retainer

A fixed retainer is a special flat wire that is adapted, and attached, to the inside surface of the front teeth.

It is only used in special circumstances where the Orthodontist suspects that the teeth will not be stable without one, for example when there was a gap (diastema) between the front teeth before treatment.

Which retainer is recommended for me?

Removable retainers are normally fitted as a standard. They are manufactured at a laboratory from an imprint or scan of the teeth. The Orthodontist or therapist will normally outline the pros and cons at the brace removal appointment and will help you choose the best one for you.

For more information about retainers please view our leaflet.